[en] Activities of Daily Living ; Adolescent ; Adult ; Age Factors ; Aged ; Aged, 80 and over ; Aging/physiology ; Belgium/epidemiology ; Cross-Sectional Studies ; Disabled Persons/statistics & numerical data ; Female ; Health Surveys ; Humans ; Male ; Middle Aged ; Sex Factors
[en] BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Our aim was to provide age- and sex-stratified prevalence estimates of physical disabilities and handicap in the general Belgian population. METHODS: A cross-sectional and demographically representative health interview survey was conducted nationwide in Belgium in 1997. The 8836 persons aged 15 years and over who answered the health interview were included in this study. Seventeen items from the survey encompassing main activities of daily living (ADL) and confining were analyzed. To provide prevalence estimates as detailed as possible, neither aggregation nor dichotomization were applied. RESULTS: Women consistently reported more disability than men: mobility (p < 0.001), transfer in-out bed (p < 0.001), transfer in-out chair (p < 0.001), dressing (p = 0.004), washing hands and face (p = 0.029), getting to and using toilet (p = 0.003), continence (p < 0.001), seeing (p < 0.001) and mastication (p < 0.001). As expected, there was a marked trend for increased prevalence of disability with increasing age for both sexes. Moderate disability arose mainly from the 25-34 age group for both sexes. For both genders, severe disability appeared mainly at higher ages, particularly for the 65-74 age group. Nevertheless, the data suggest that continence problems for women, mobility and transfer issues for men, as well as mastication problems for both genders, clearly emerge earlier than age 65. Regarding handicap, observed prevalence rates were increasing, in age as was the case for disability, but no differences were found between men or women, except for confinement to house/garden, for which women presented a higher rate in general (p < 0.001) and in the 75-84 age group (p = 0.036) in particular. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows the wide range of disability types in the general population and their association with handicap. While elderly individuals consistently report higher degrees of disability and handicap, attention should also be paid to younger age groups. Disability calls for wide, coherent and relevant medical as well as social responses.