Social isolation and loneliness are a public health concern because they are associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes and mortality. Social isolation is defined as have few, or no, social connections, and not participating in activities with others. Loneliness is defined as feeling unsatisfied about the amount of social engagement in one’s life.
Before the current pandemic, people with disabilities reported significantly higher rates of social isolation and loneliness than those without disabilities. Inaccessible events and buildings, limited accessible public transportation, social stigma, and lower rates of employment all contribute to these high rates. When restrictions are put in place to help protect people from COVID-19, what happens to these rates?
To learn more about how COVID-19 and public health responses such as stay-at-home orders may contribute to feelings of social isolation and loneliness among people with disabilities, RTC:Rural researchers compared data from two cross-sectional samples collected before and after the first wave of “stay-at-home” orders.
Rural/urban differences in trust in sources and preventative practices
Public health is shaped by community-level action. This is especially important during crises such as COVID-19, where widespread adoption of public health practices is necessary to manage community spread and prevent loss. Consistent information is important for fostering trust and adherence to recommended practices.
RTC:Rural’s newest research brief examines how rural people with disabilities use different types of transportation. These include being a driver, asking others for rides, special transportation services, reduced-fare taxis, and public transportation.
People with disabilities, especially in rural areas, still report transportation as a significant barrier to full inclusion and participation in community life, nearly 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. Understanding how people with disabilities get around is an important first step for improving transportation options.
Using data from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey, this research brief explores travel behaviors and characteristics of rural and urban people with disabilities.
Picture from Healthy Community Living (www.healthycommunityliving.com).
A new RTC:Rural Research Brief by RTC:Rural partner Christiane von Reichert, Ph.D., Professor of Geography at the University of Montana, presents research on disability rates at the household level. The brief, titled “Prevalence of Disability: Individual and Household Context,” is available for download on the Geography and Rural Disability page on the RTC:Rural website. This work highlights the number of people without disabilities who live in households with someone with a disability, and contributes to a larger study on migration and disability and rural/urban differences in disability levels.
In this study, von Reichert analyzed American Community Survey data to determine the number of households in the United States that have at least one member with a disability. She found that about 308 million Americans, or 97% of the total population, live in households. About 41 million, or 13%, of Americans have at least one type of disability, and 38 million of them live in households. The others live in group quarters, which include dormitories, nursing homes, and prisons.
Of those who live in households, 230 million are people who do not have a disability, and live in a household with no members with disabilities. Approximately 78 million people without disabilities live in households with a member who experiences a disability. This means that nearly 25% of the US population lives in a household with a member with a disability.
This analysis highlights the fact that the impact of disability goes beyond the individual level and extends to the household-level, said von Reichert, an insight that needs to be taken into consideration for future disability research and policy-making.