One in five Americans has at least one disability, with that number rising dramatically — to almost 1 in 3 — in some Southern states.
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The report, released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, found that the most common functional disability is difficulty walking or climbing stairs.
In general, the South has the highest percentages of people with disabilities with Alabama at 31.5 percent, and both Mississippi and Tennessee at 31.4 percent. The lowest rate of disability is in the state of Minnesota (16.4 percent).
The report doesn’t determine why these differences exist, however Southern states have high rates of chronic diseases — such as heart disease and diabetes — which can be associated with disability.
“We are all at risk of having a disability at some point in our lifetime,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a statement. “Health professionals and health care systems need to meet the needs of this growing population.”
For the purposes of the report, a disability is anything that impedes vision, cognition, mobility, self-care or independent living. Women have a higher rate of disability than men, while adults with lower levels of education, income or who are unemployed, are more likely to report a disability.
The survey also found African Americans (29 percent) and Hispanics (25.9 percent) are more likely to have a disability than whites (20.6 percent).
The report used data from 2013 and included about 465,000 adults. It was released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law prohibiting discrimination against someone because of a disability in the workplace, transportation and community.
Adults living with a disability are more likely to be obese, smoke, have high blood pressure and do not exercise regularly, according to the report.