As the population in the U.S. and around the globe becomes older in age, the number of people who are disabled appears to be growing. In the United States, this means that more people may qualify to receive social security disability benefits.
A report prepared by the World Health Organization and the World Bank says that nearly 15 percent of the total number of people alive today are disabled. This equals roughly 785 million people around the world, a staggering number.
The report is about 350 pages in length and is the first time WHO has undertaken a study to collect data about disability around the world. The range of disabilities includes blindness to loss of limbs, mental illness and chronic pain.
The instance of disability appears to be more significant among older populations, especially among those living in poor countries. The study also suggests that the stigma associated with disability, along with a lack of laws that protect the rights of the disabled, are significant issues. Cost and availability of adaptive devices, such as artificial limbs and access to health care professionals that understand issues facing the disabled, are also cited in the report.
According to the Washington Post, the study suggests that there are two main factors contributing to the increase in disabled populations. The first is a lack of money that can be used for disease prevention programs and the clinical treatment of diseases. Worldwide increases in sedentary behavior and changes in diet that have led to obesity are also factors.
The second major factor is age. People aged 80 and older are now the fastest growing population in the world. They face challenges in access to employment, plus discrimination in other areas that contribute to disability as a major world issue.
Given the current trends, the study predicts the number of disabled individuals will continue to escalate over time.
Source: Washington Post, "Report: 15 percent of world population is disabled," David Brown, 9 June 2011
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