Prioritizing Housing Goals May Positively Impact Quality of Life and Independent Living for People with Disabilities

Man in a wheelchair holding a tablet and overlooking the city in his living room
A man in a wheelchair researches housing options on a tablet from an office in a
high rise building. The background is a window view of an urban landscape.
Credit: Image generated by DALL·E, an AI system from OpenAI.com.
 

Survey reveals age-related differences in residential mobility patterns in the population with spinal cord injury

East Hanover, NJ – December 1, 2023 – Housing that fails to meet the needs of people with disabilities may have far-reaching consequences. Living situations that impede independence and community integration, for example, can adversely affect health and wellbeing over the long term. More than 70% of people with spinal cord injury use wheelchairs and other assistive technology, complicating their search for affordable, accessible housing. Despite the magnitude of this problem, little research has been conducted on residential mobility patterns among people with acquired disabilities, including spinal cord injury.

Data from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center database suggests that the population with spinal cord injury may be at risk for residential instability. To address the need for greater insight, researchers conducted a detailed survey. Their article, “Residential mobility and reasons for moving among people living with spinal cord injury: Results of a multisite survey study,”(doi:10.46292/sci23-00030) appeared online in a special issue of Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation on December 1, 2023.

The authors are Amanda L. Botticello, PhD, MPH, and Lauren Murphy, PhD, of Kessler Foundation, Michael Boninger, MD, and Lynn Worobey, PhD, DPT, ATP, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Thomas N. Bryce, MD, of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Susan Charlifue, PhD, at Craig Hospital, Jennifer Coker, PhD, Mary Joan Roach, PhD, of Case Western University and MetroHealth System, and Michael Scott, MD, at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.

Woman with brown hair wearing a maroon blouse and white pearls
Dr. Botticello, a social epidemiologist specializing
in disability-related disparities, is associate
director of the Center for Outcomes &
Assessment Research at Kessler Foundation.
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The researchers surveyed 690 people enrolled in six Spinal Cord Injury Model System Centers in the U.S., from July 2017 to October 2020. Participants were asked whether they had moved in the past 12 months, how far they had moved, and their primary reason for moving. A sample from the 2019 American Community Survey served as a comparison. Median household income for residential neighborhoods from the American Community Survey provided socioeconomic information.

Participants with spinal cord injury moved at a rate comparable to that of the general population – 16.4%. Movers tended to be younger, more recently injured, as well as healthier and higher functioning, but also less advantaged socioeconomically,” said Dr. Botticello, lead author, associate director of the Center for Outcomes & Assessment Research and vice chair for research education at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “Having fewer resources may mean less ability to modify existing housing and a greater need to move for better accessibility,” she speculated.

Reasons for moving differed by age group, with younger adults moving for family reasons and accessibility, while housing quality was the primary reason among older adults. The fact that people aged 45 to 64 were far more likely to move for housing reasons is telling, according to Dr. Botticello. “People with spinal cord injury appear to be deferring moves to their preferred housing situations until middle age. This age-related difference may reflect an extended search for optimal housing for this population,” she observed.

Understanding the underlying reasons for residential mobility among persons with disabilities is essential to ensuring the availability of community-based supports and services for this population including healthcare and employment as well as housing.

“Our survey suggests that helping people achieve their housing goals earlier should be a priority for policymakers,” concluded Dr. Botticello. “This may have a substantial impact on quality of life for individuals with spinal cord injury and may promote independent living for people with disabilities in general.”

Funding sources: National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR): 90SI5026; 90SIMS0012) (Kessler Foundation)

About the National Spinal Cord Injury Model System: The Spinal Cord Injury Model System (SCIMS) is a specialized program of care in spinal cord injury (SCI) that gathers information and conducts research with the goal of improving long-term functional, vocational, cognitive, and quality-of-life outcomes for individuals with spinal cord injury. Funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, the 2021-2026 grant cycle comprises 18 SCIMS grantees. Each grantee contributes patient records to a national database, maintained by the National SCI Statistical Center, which tracks the long-term consequences of SCI and conducts research in the areas of medical rehabilitation, health and wellness, technology, service delivery, short- and long-term interventions, and systems research. Each SCIMS grantee is charged with disseminating information and research findings to patients, family members, health care providers, educators, policymakers, and the general public.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research. Our scientists seek to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes, including employment, for adults and children with neurological and developmental disabilities of the brain and spinal cord including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and autism. Kessler Foundation also leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. We help people regain independence to lead full and productive lives.

For more information, contact:
Deb Hauss, [email protected]
Carolann Murphy, [email protected]

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