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Facts and Statistics About Chronic Illness

Nearly 1 in 2 Americans (133 million) has a chronic condition
Chronic Care in America: A 21st Century Challenge, a study of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & Partnership for Solutions: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (September 2004 Update). "Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care".

96% of them live with an illness that is invisible. These people do no use a cane or any assistive device and may look perfectly healthy.
2002 US Census Bureau

Major Stats About Illness and Invisible Illness in the USA

About 133 million people in the U.S. have a chronic illness.

  • 20.6 percent of the population
  • about 54 million people, have some level of disability
  • 9.9 percent or 26 million people had a severe disabiliy
  • 1.8 million used a wheelchair
  • 5.2 million used a cane, crutches, or a walker^

So that is less than 6% who have a visible illness.

Notably, 26 million persons were considered to have a severe disability

Yet, only 7 million persons used a visible device for mobility.

Thus, 19 million of the people who were defined as severely disabled, did not use a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walkers.

In other words, 73% of Americans with severe disabilities do not use such devices. Therefore, a disability cannot be determined solely on whether or not a person uses visible assistive equipment*

Source: ^ U.S. Department of Commerce, 1997, p. 1) * US Department of Commerce (1994). Bureau of the Census, Statistical Brief: Americans With Disabilities. (Publication SB/94-1).U.S. Department of Commerce (1997). Bureau of the Census, Census Brief: Disabilities Affect One-Fifth of All Americans. (Publication CENBR/97-5).U.S. Department of Commerce (1997). Census Bureau: Current Population Reports. (Publication P70-61). Author: John McNeill
More Illness Statstics
  • By 2020, about 157 million Americans will be afflicted by chronic illnesses, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • That number is projected to increase by more than one percent per year by 2030, resulting in an estimated chronically ill population of 171 million.
    Chronic Care in America: A 21st Century Challenge, a study of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & Partnership for Solutions: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (September 2004 Update). "Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care".
  • Sixty percent are between the ages of 18 and 64
    Chronic Care in America: A 21st Century Challenge, a study of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • 90% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have two or more chronic diseases
    The Growing Burden of Chronic Disease in American, Public Heal Reports / May–June 2004 / Volume 119, Gerard Anderson, PhD
  • 9 million people are cancer survivors with various side effects from treatment
    American Cancer Society
    The divorce rate among the chronically ill is over 75 percent
    National Health Interview Survey

Where to Find Health Statistics

Nat. Ctr for Health Stats

Census Bureau

Center for Research on CI
provides facts and figures about diseases pervading the world population, including AIDS, malaria and TB. Get information and stats broken down by disease or by region. Great information about some of the most serious health conditions in the world today.

2002 US Census Bureau- Americans With Disabilities: 2002

Easing the Burden of Chronic Illness for Communities of Color
: 20 pages

Chronic Care in America: A 21st Century Challenge Revised in September 2004, it provides an overview of chronic health conditions in the United States and the impact of these conditions on individuals and their caregivers, as well as on the U.S. health care system. 68 pages

Cornucopia Of Disability Information - Including Statistics



Money Issues
  • Four in five health care dollars (78%) are spent on behalf of people with chronic conditions
    The Growing Burden of Chronic Disease in American, Public Health Reports, MayJune 2004 Volume 119 Gerard Anderson, PhD

Mental Illness/Depression

  • Depression is 15-20% higher for the chronically ill than for the average person
    Rifkin, A. "Depression in Physically Ill Patients," Postgraduate Medicine (9-92) 147-154.
  • About one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year;
    Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.
  • and more than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder
    Conwell Y, Brent D. Suicide and aging I: patterns of psychiatric diagnosis. International Psychogeriatrics, 1995; 7(2): 149-64.
Suicidal Thoughts
  • Various studies have reported that physical illness or uncontrollable physical pain are major factors in up to 70% of suicides;
    Mackenzie TB, Popkin MK: "Suicide in the medical patient.". Intl J Psych in Med 17:3-22, 1987
  • and more than 50% of these suicidal patients were under 35 years of age
    Michalon M: La psychiatrie de consultation-liaison: une etude prospective en milieu hospitalier general. Can J Psychiatry (In French) 38:168-174,1993
Use of the Internet
58% of those who found the internet to be crucial or important during a loved one’s recent health crisis say the single most important source of information was something they found online. * Pew Internet and American Life
The Impact of Faith and Illness/Health
Those who use their religious faith to cope are significantly less depressed, even when taking into account the severity of their physical illness.
In fact, the clinical effects of religious coping showed the strongest benefit among those with severe physical disability. Some 87 patients hospitalized with serious illness who also then suffered depression were followed over time in another study. The patients with a deep, internalized faith recovered faster from the depression, even when their physical condition wasn't improving.
Kendler, K.S., Gardner, C. O., and Prescott, C.A. "Religion, Psychopathology, and Substance Use and Abuse: A Multimeasure, Genetic-Epidemiologic Study," American Journal of Psychiatry 1997; 154: 322-329. Koenig, Harold G., Larson, David B., and Weaver, Andrew J. "Research on Religion and Serious Mental Illness," in Spirituality and Religion in Recovery from Mental Illness, ed., Roger Fallott. New Directions for Mental Health Services 1998; (80).
Slightly less than half (45%) of people with disabilities say they never go to a place of worship compared to 35% of people without disabilities. 52% of people with severe disabilities have never attended a religious service.
2001 NOD/Harris Survey on community participation by people with disabilities.
The significance of one's faith has shown to lower one's risk of depressive symptoms and aid one in better handling a stressful medical event.
Pressman P., Lyons J.S., Larson D.B., Strain, J.J. "Religious belief, depression, and ambulation status in elderly women with broken hips." American Journal of Psychiatry 1990; 147(6): 758-760.
Majority of Doctors Say Faith Helps Patients
A new survey finds that 85 percent of U.S. doctors believe religious faith can help patients have a good outcome. Researchers polled 1,144 doctors for the study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, The Los Angeles Times reported. Only 1 percent said they believe religious faith and spirituality have a negative effect, while 2 percent said it has no effect and 12 percent said they think the positive and negative effects are balanced. Asked about their own religious beliefs, 54 percent said they think God sometimes intervenes to help patients, 28 percent do not and 18 percent are agnostic.

Physicians View Religiosity as Factor in Patients' Health
By Judith Groch, Senior Writer, MedPage Today
Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, April 10, 2007

CHICAGO, April 10 -- A majority of physicians in a large survey declared that religion and spirituality, including divine intervention, affect their patients' health. The survey of more than a thousand practicing physicians found that 56% believe religion and spirituality have a significant effect on health, researchers reported in the April 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Nearly as many said that on occasion the influence is attributable to divine intervention, said Farr A. Curlin, M.D., of the University of Chicago, and colleagues. Yet only a few said that these beliefs change "hard" medical outcomes.
Spirituality, religion helps lower BP
A study of more than 5,000 African Americans has found that being involved with or participating in religious activities can significantly lower blood pressure, even in those people who are likely to be classified as hypertensive, having higher levels of body mass index (BMI), and lower levels of medication adherence.
Source: presented at the 21st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH 2006).


Chronic Illness Often a Taboo Subject: Survey
October 11, 2007 08:40:42 PM PST

THURSDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Along with taboo topics such as politics and religion, many Americans are reluctant to discuss managing a chronic illness with family or friends, according to a new survey of more than 1,000 adults.

The survey, released Oct. 11, found that 82 percent of respondents said they knew someone with a chronic illness, but only 34 percent were likely to suggest ways for this person to better manage their care. That's about the same number who said they'd debate politics (37 percent) or religion (33 percent) with a loved one or friend.

Respondents were more likely to discourage friends or loved ones from buying the wrong house (65 percent), loan them a large amount of money (56 percent), advise them against taking a job they didn't think was right for the person (48 percent), and tell them their spouse was unfaithful (41 percent).

The survey was released by Evercare, a provider of health plans for people who have chronic illnesses, are older, or have disabilities.

The reasons why many Americans are reluctant to offer advice to chronically-ill friends or family include:

  1. They think the person has the situation under control (66 percent); they are not a health care professional (31 percent)
  2. they don't want to seem like a nag (31 percent) or rude (29 percent)
  3. they don't believe the person would listen to them (27 percent)
  4. they didn't think the matter was that important (15 percent).

Other findings:

  • Twenty percent of respondents said their spouse was the easiest person to give advice to about health, followed by a child (20 percent), mother (13 percent), and father (5 percent).
  • Most respondents said they'd prefer to receive advice about managing a chronic illness from a health care professional (67 percent), followed by a spouse (10 percent) or parent (7 percent). Men were twice as likely as women (14 percent versus 7 percent) to have their spouse give them such advice.
  • Men have an easier time offering health advice to their spouse (28 percent) than women (19 percent). Women have an easier time offering health advice to their children (24 percent) than men (16 percent).
  • Thirty-four percent of respondents said the person closest to them with a chronic illness is a parent (34 percent), followed by another relative (16 percent), spouse (14 percent), friend (11 percent), sibling (8 percent), and child (6 percent).

Evercare offered tips on how to help family or friends with a chronic illness:

  • Talk to them in order to get an understanding of their goals. Get the conversation started by discussing events or activities they used to enjoy or future events they want to be part of, such as a family reunion. Once you understand their goals, you can help them achieve them along with health care providers, doctors or community service agencies.
  • Appoint an "ambassador" -- someone your friend or loved one feels comfortable talking with and respects enough to heed his or her advice. This person can help your friend or family member manage their condition.
  • Increase your comfort levels by educating yourself about the person's chronic illness. This will make you feel more comfortable speaking with them about the condition and reinforcing the advice the patient has received from their doctors.

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