Occupational Differentials in Chronic Disability

  • Wan, Thomas T. H.;
  • Wright, Alexandra


The analysis of occupational differentials in chronic disability was made using data obtained from the 1967 Survey of Economic Opportunity. The study population was restricted to civilian non-institutionalized male family heads between the ages of 25 and 64. Disability rates were age-adjusted. The data revealed that farmers and laborers showed higher prevalence rates for all disabling conditions, with the exception of nervous system disorders, than did persons in other occupations. The severity of disability for each disabling condition was found to vary considerably by occupation, and it was difficult to establish any consistent pattern. The percentage distribution of severity of disability by disabling condition for each occupational category revealed that in some cases occupations presumably very different in nature showed the same percentage of severe limitation due to a particular disabling condition. For example, professionals and managers showed the same percentage of severe limitation due to cardiovascular disorders (32.9%) as did farmers and farm managers.

A multivariate analysis was employed in order to investigate the net effect of occupation on severity of disability. Results showed the influence of occupation on severe disabilities to be substantially reduced after simultaneous adjustment for other variables. Although the analysis of occupation effects indicated that occupation, per se, was not highly predictive of the severity of disability, certain differential risks in severe work limitation were noted for various occupational categories.

The considerable variation in prevalence for each category suggests the need for more pertinent and detailed information concerning the occupation. A more systematic breakdown of occupational categories, using precise job descriptions, might show specific jobs to be vulnerable to greater hazards than others within the same occupational category. More information is needed as to the kind and severity of job hazards present in various occupations. In determining the relationship between occupation and disability, work environment and job mobility may be important factors. Smith and Lillienfield note that prior occupation may influence post-onset work-status. The authors suggest that persons in higher occupational categories, possibly having more control over the working environment, may be more successful in obtaining employment after the onset of disability. It is likely that disabled workers affiliated with labor organizations have better chances for post-onset job placement than workers without such support. Further considerations should be given to the social and psychological environment, as well as the mental and physical requirements of specific occupations, in order to understand the differential effects of occupation on the incidence of disability and consequent activity limitation.


JOURNAL: J Occup Med. 1973; 15(6): 493-498.

Note: Journal of Occupational Medicine.

NLOM ID#: 73176515

Publication #: 73176515

This document was extracted from the CDC-NIOSH Epidemiology of Farm Related Injuries: Bibliography With Abstracts, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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