April 8, 2012

Disability Rates by Age

Image By wheatfieldbrown
I see more and more talk about people working past the 'normal' retirement age of 65.   Honestly for most people I think this is unfortunately mostly a reflection of peoples failure or difficulty saving for their retirement rather than an inherent desire to work forever.   If you want to work past 65 then thats great, but unfortunately many people are unable to continue working at that age due to disability.

The US Census has data on disability rates broken down by a few categories like sex, age and race.

I pulled data out of the XLS sheet for "Table D-1 Prevalence of Disability by Sex and Age - All Races" and made the graph below:

After I made my graph I poked around and noticed the Census already had a similar Figure.   Ok so I reinvented that wheel, live and learn.

I also have the same data copied out of the Census XLS in table form :

disabled severe need assist
 ALL  18.7% 12% 3.8%
 under 15  8.8% 4% 0.4%
 15 and older  21.3% 14% 4.7%
 15 to 24  10.4% 5% 1.3%
 25 to 44  11.4% 7% 1.9%
 44 to 54  19.4% 13% 3.4%
 55 to 64  30.1% 21% 5.7%
 65 and older  51.8% 37% 15.6%
 65 to 69  37.4% 26% 7.6%
 70 to 74  43.8% 28% 9.4%
 75 to 79  55.9% 38% 16.1%
 80 and older  71.0% 56% 29.3%

The definitions for the different categories are documented in the Census document.Definition of Disability, Functional Limitations, Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)
They have a table that breaks it down by category.   For example if you have difficulty getting out of bed without help then thats a disability whereas if you are unable to get out of bed without help thats a severe disability.  Full explanation is in the document.

I think the key point of the above data is that disability rates increase with age.   Most people live most of their lives without a disability but as we age disabilities become more and more common.   51.8% of people over 65 years old have a disability and 37% of them have a severe disability.    If you want to work forever then fine, but don't think that should excuse you for saving for your retirement years. The likelihood of a disability grows with age and may derail your plans to work.



  1. Should a very low income (minimum wage or poverty level) excuse you from saving for retirement?

  2. Terry, No I do not think that a low income excuses people from saving for retirement. Though having a low income can make saving particularly hard. For low income people the Social Security benefits will replace a higher % of their income so they don't have to save as much, but they should still try to save some.



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