Disability prevalence among adults: Estimates for 54 countries and progress toward a global estimate

Sophie Mitra, Usha Sambamoorthi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Objectives: We estimated disability prevalence among adults at global, regional and country levels using internationally comparable disability data and measure. Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of data from the World Health Survey (WHS) (2002-2004) for nationally representative samples of civilian, non-institutionalized populations in 54 countries. A disability was measured as having at least one severe or extreme difficulty with bodily functions (seeing, concentrating) and activities (moving around, self-care) based on an individual's self-reports. Results: In the 54 countries under study, severe or extreme functional or activity difficulties are highly prevalent. For all countries, disability prevalence is estimated at 14% for all adults. Low and middle income countries have higher disability prevalence compared to high income countries. Among subgroups, disability prevalence stands at 12% among working age adults and 39% among the elderly. Women have higher prevalence than men. Conclusions: Disability is found to be highly prevalent among adults, with an estimated global prevalence at 14%. Disability deserves enhanced policy attention and resources in public health and international development. Implications for RehabilitationGlobal disability prevalence is found to stand at 14% among adults.Disability prevalence is estimated to be higher in developing countries, among women and the elderly population.Rehabilitation needs worldwide are large and assessments are required to assess unmet needs globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)940-947
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2014


  • Adults
  • International
  • Prevalence


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