Physical Activity and Disability: An Analysis on How Activity Might Lower Medical Expenditures

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Background: This study evaluated the effect of increased physical activity on annual medical expenditures among people with disability, as well as people without disability. Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study with linked national survey data from 2004 to 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and from 2002 to 2012 National Health Interview Study. We investigated the effect of physical activity on the annual medical expenditures in 2013 US dollars, among people with and without disability who were 18- to 64-year-old adults. Results: For people with disability, we found a statistically significant effect (P < .05) of physical activity on annual medical expenditures. Among people without disability, being inactive was associated with higher medical expenditures, compared with being sufficiently active. In our counterfactual analysis, among inactive people with disability, increasing activity to even a low level of activity could potentially save on average $2150.06 (95% confidence interval, 770.39 to 3529.72) annual medical costs. Conclusions: This analysis provides evidence that when an individual with a disability moves from inactive to active, the savings in medical expenditures are substantially larger than the savings for an individual without a disability ($2564.33 vs $393.34). Despite the challenge of participating in physical activity for people with disability, completing “some” activity may have large public health implications.

Xu is with the Dept of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA. Ozturk is with the Dept of Economics, Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. Turk is with the Dept of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY. McDermott is with the Dept of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

McDermott (smcdermo@mailbox.sc.edu) is corresponding author.
Journal of Physical Activity and Health

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