Progress in Closing the Age-at-Death Disparity for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Scott D. Landes

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Intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) directly impact the course of an individual’s life, including the age at which they die. Research indicates that the age-at-death disparity between adults with IDD and those without IDD was reduced substantially from the 1950s through the late 1990s. We used data from U.S. death certificates to determine whether there has been a continued reduction in the age-at-death disparity between adults with and without different types of IDD. As illustrated in the figure below, from 2005 to 2017, the mean age-at-death disparity decreased between adults with and without various disabilities: 2.2 years for intellectual disability; 1.9 years for Down syndrome; 2.7 years for cerebral palsy; and 5.1 for rare developmental disabilities. Although large gaps remain, this progress is promising.

Data Source: U.S. Multiple Cause of Death Mortality files, 2005-2017. We used mutually exclusive disability status categories: No IDD; Intellectual disability (ID) without a co-occurring developmental disability; Down syndrome with/without ID; Cerebral palsy with/without ID; and Rare developmental disabilities with/without ID. More details about this study, including specific ICD-10 codes, can be found in the peer-reviewed publication in the Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities.

About the Author
Scott Landes ( is an Associate Professor of Sociology, a Faculty Associate in the Aging Studies Institute, and a Lerner Research Affiliate in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.