Nearly a fifth of the population over the age of 21 can be defined as physically disabled in their daily functioning, according to a survey conducted for the Health Ministry.
According to the representative sample of nearly 5,000 adults, there are 721,000 disabled (or 18 percent of all adults) in the country; of them, 393,000 are "very disabled."
The survey was carried out through face-to-face interviews in homes by the Central Bureau of Statistics in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian, with data processed by Anat Shemesh of the ministry.
Most of those defined as disabled suffered from mobility problems of their skeleton or muscles; vision or hearing disability; or respiratory or heart problems. Four in 10 suffered from more than three health problems at once.
More than 60% began to suffer their disability before age 45, but 70% of the disabled are now over 45. Women of all ages are more likely to report disability in their daily functioning (20.6%) than men (15.7%).
Disability is also more common among Arabs than Jews and others, while the rate of disability among Jews who immigrated from Asia or Africa (31%) is almost three times than of native-born Israelis. The fewer people's years of education, the more likely they are to be disabled. People living in disadvantaged areas are twice as likely to be disabled than those from higher socioeconomic areas, the survey found.
Only 14.5% of those who were found to be disabled and 8% of the very disabled said their health was good or very good, compared to 64% of the nondisabled.
Almost a fifth of the physically disabled also suffered from anxiety and other emotional problems. Of the disabled, 16% said they had difficulty sleeping, compared to 64% of the very disabled and 32% of the nondisabled.
The disabled were much more likely to be overweight or obese and less likely to exercise on a regular basis. There were no significant differences in smoking rates, however.
More than three-fifths of the disabled earned less than NIS 3,000 gross per month and regarded themselves as being lower on the social ladder than the nondisabled. The disabled are twice to three times more likely than the healthy to have been hospitalized in the last year. They visit doctors almost twice as often as the nondisabled, the study found.
The authors of the report found major gaps between the disabled and the healthy, thus they recommended interventions such as early identification of those with disability, prevention of physical limitations, promoting a healthful lifestyle and promoting accessibility to services in the community. In addition, improving the awareness of medical teams to the difficulty of their lives will improve the patients' ability to cope with their problems, they wrote.