Prevalence and etiologies of adult communication disabilities in the United States: Results from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey

Megan A. Morris, Sarah K. Meier, Joan Griffin, Megan E. Branda, Sean M Phelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Background Communication disabilities, including speech, language and voice disabilities, can significantly impact a person's quality of life, employment and health status. Despite this, little is known about the prevalence and etiology of communication disabilities in the general adult population. Objectives To assess the prevalence and etiology of communication disabilities in a nationally representative adult sample. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional study and analyzed the responses of non-institutionalized adults to the Sample Adult Core questionnaire within the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. We used respondents' self-report of having a speech, language or voice disability within the past year and receiving a diagnosis for one of these communication disabilities, as well as the etiology of their communication disability. We additionally examined the responses by subgroups, including sex, age, race and ethnicity, and geographical area. Results In 2012 approximately 10% of the US adult population reported a communication disability, while only 2% of adults reported receiving a diagnosis. The rates of speech, language and voice disabilities and diagnoses varied across gender, race/ethnicity and geographic groups. The most common response for the etiology of a communication disability was "something else." Conclusions Improved understanding of population prevalence and etiologies of communication disabilities will assist in appropriately directing rehabilitation and medical services; potentially reducing the burden of communication disabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-144
Number of pages5
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016



  • Communication disability
  • Epidemiology
  • Etiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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