Over a million more paralyzed than previously estimated, US

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A survey of over 33,000 households released shows that 40 percent more Americans live with paralysis and over five times the number of Americans live with spinal cord injury than previously estimated.

Specifically, the survey shows that 1.275 million have had a spinal cord injury and over 5.6 million Americans live with some form of paralysis. The highest previous estimates were 250,000 and roughly four million, respectively.

“That means one in 50 Americans is living with some form of paralysis, whether caused by disease, spinal cord injury or neurological damage,” said Peter T. Wilderotter, President and CEO of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. “Someone you know is living with paralysis ? a family member, a friend or a work colleague.”

The study was initiated by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and conducted by the University of New Mexico’s Center for Development and Disability. More than 30 experts from 14 leading universities and medical centers and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set the parameters for the survey. The development of the survey, acquisition and analysis of the data took over three years.

“This is the first population-based survey to measure the national prevalence of paralysis,” said Anthony Cahill, Ph.D., principal investigator for the study and Director of the Division of Disability and Health Policy in the Center for Development and Disability at the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine. “The enormous data set offers a wealth of information about this population.”

? Paralysis is dramatically more widespread than previously thought. Approximately 1.9 percent of the U.S. population, or 5,596,000 people reported they were living with some form of paralysis, defined by the study as a central nervous system disorder resulting in difficulty or inability to move the upper or lower extremities. This is about 40 percent more Americans living with paralysis than previously estimated (~four million).

? Spinal cord injury is also more prevalent than previously estimated. Data indicate that 1,275,000 people in the United States are living with spinal cord injury?more than five times the number of Americans previously estimated in 2008 (255,702).

? We are more certain about causes of paralysis. The leading cause of paralysis was stroke (29 percent), followed by spinal cord injury (23 percent) and multiple sclerosis (17 percent).

? Paralysis appears to be disproportionately distributed among some minority communities-such as African Americans and Native Americans-but not all. Hispanics who are living with paralysis represent approximately the same percentage as those who report being Hispanic in the United States census.

? People living with paralysis have households with lower incomes. Household income for those with paralysis is heavily skewed towards lower-income brackets and is significantly lower than household income for the country as a whole. Roughly 25 percent of households with a person who is paralyzed earn less than $10,000 per year, compared with only seven percent of households in the general population.

Source: Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, USA

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