Associations between disability prevalence and local-area characteristics in a general community-living population

Mathieu Philibert, Robert Pampalon, Denis Hamel, Mark DANIEL

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7 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Disability is understood to arise from person-environment interactions. Hence, heterogeneity in local-area characteristics should be associated with local-area variation in disability prevalence. This study evaluated the associations of disability prevalence with local-area socioeconomic status and contextual features. METHODS: Disability prevalence was obtained from the Canada census of 2001 for the entire province of Québec at the level of dissemination areas (617 individuals on average) based on responses from 20% of the population. Data on local-area characteristics were urban-rural denomination, social and material deprivation, active and collective commuting, residential stability, and housing quality. Associations between local-area characteristics and disability prevalence were assessed using multilevel logistic regressions. RESULTS: Disability was associated with local-area socioeconomic status and contextual characteristics, and heterogeneity in these factors accounted for urban-rural differences in disability prevalence. Associations between contextual features and disability prevalence were confounded by local-area socioeconomic status. Some associations between local-area socioeconomic status and disability prevalence were moderated by contextual characteristics. The importance of this effect modification is greater when expressed in terms of the absolute magnitude of disability than in the relative likelihood of disability. CONCLUSION: Explanation of rural-urban differences by the contribution of other local-area characteristics is consistent with the conceptualization of urban-rural categories as the reflection of spatially varying ensembles of compositional and contextual factors. Although local-area socioeconomic status explains most variability in disability prevalence, this study shows that contextual characteristics are relevant to analyses of the spatial patterning of disability as they predict spatial variations of disability, sometimes in interaction with socioeconomic status. This study demonstrates that absolute and relative perspectives on effect modification may lead to differing conclusions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-474
Number of pages12
JournalRevue d'Epidemiologie et de Sante Publique
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


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