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Activity Limitations

Narrative

Activity limitations are defined in different ways. One common definition is whether a person is able to perform physical tasks (e.g., walking up 10 steps, standing for 2 hours, carrying a ten pound object), or engage in social activities and recreation (e.g., going shopping, visiting friends, sewing, reading) without the assistance of another person or using special equipment.1 In 2008–2010, 33.6 percent of adults reported being limited in their ability to perform one or more of these common activities (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). Women were more likely than men to report being limited in their activities (37.5 versus 29.3 percent, respectively).

The percentage of adults reporting activity limitations increased with age for both women and men. Among women, for example, only 19.1 percent of women aged 18–34 years reported activity limitations, compared to 27.7 percent of women aged 35–44 years, 45.8 percent of women aged 45–64 years, and 69.1 percent of women aged 65 years and older.

The prevalence of activity limitations also varied with poverty level and educational attainment. For example, over half (50.2 percent) of women living in households with incomes less than 100 percent of poverty reported activity limitations compared to 29.8 percent of women living in households with incomes of 400 percent or more of poverty. Similarly, 47.1 percent of women with less than a high school education reported activity limitations compared to 28.5 percent of women with a college degree or higher (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

In 2008–2010, the most commonly reported conditions among women with activity limitations were back or neck problems and arthritis (28.0 and 27.7 percent, respectively), followed by depression, anxiety, or emotional problems (11.1 percent), bone or joint injuries (9.7 percent), and weight problems (8.0 percent). Vision and hearing problems were reported to cause limitations in 2.6 and 0.9 percent of women with activity limitations, respectively.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. 2009 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Questionnaire: Adult Health Status and Limitations.

Graphs

Data

Adults Aged 18 and Older with Activity Limitations,* by Age and Sex, 2008–2010
Age Group Percent of Adults
Female Male
*Activity limitations are defined as having difficulty performing certain physical, social, or recreational activities without the assistance of another person or using special equipment.
**Total estimates are age-adjusted. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey with multiply imputed poverty data, 2008-2010. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
Total** 37.5 29.3
18-34 Years 19.1 13.7
35-44 Years 27.7 20.7
45-64 Years 45.8 36.1
65 Years and Older 69.1 56.9

Women Aged 18 and Older with Activity Limitations,* by Selected Conditions, 2008-2010

Percent of Women with Activity Limitations:

  • Back or Neck Problem: 28.0
  • Arthritis/Rheumatism: 27.7
  • Depression, Anxiety, or Emotional Problem: 11.1
  • Bone or Joint Injury: 9.7
  • Weight Problem: 8.0
  • Lung or Breathing Problem: 6.0
  • Hypertension: 3.3
  • Diabetes: 3.3
  • Vision Problem: 2.6
  • Hearing Problem: 0.9

*Activity limitations are defined as having difficulty performing certain physical, social, or recreational activities without the assistance of another person or using special equipment; estimates are age-adjusted.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey with multiply imputed poverty data, 2008-2010. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.