Clinical Pathways to Disability
This paper examines the pathways by which individuals transition from healthy to disabled. Because of the high prevalence and costs associated with disability, understanding these pathways is critical to developing interventions to prevent or minimize disability. We compare two estimates of disabling conditions: those observed in medical claims and conditions indicated by the disabled individual. A small number of conditions explain about half of incident disability: arthritis, infectious disease, dementia, heart failure, diabetes, and stroke. These conditions show up in medical claims and self reports. A large number of elderly also attribute disability to old age and various symptoms. Because so many of the most disabling conditions do not have clear medical treatments, the outlook for major reductions in disability might be limited.