One-third of U.S. adults have activity-limiting health conditions and this proportion increases with age. However, it is unclear whether functional limitation renders one vulnerable to discrimination, and whether this vulnerability differs over the life course. Stigma theories suggest disablement would be more discrediting to younger persons, as it violates cultural norms and expectations regarding “able-bodied” young adults. We used data from the second wave of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S. (n = 4,041) to evaluate whether persons with functional impairment report higher levels of perceived interpersonal mistreatment and institutional discrimination. Persons with impairment report more frequent encounters of disrespectful treatment, harassment, and being treated as if they have a character flaw, and elevated odds of the workplace- and service-related discrimination, net of sociodemographic and health controls. Effects are significantly larger among midlife versus retirement-age persons. We discuss implications for cumulative disadvantage processes among persons with impairment.
Presented in Session 6. Health & Mortality & Aging