Purpose: Assessment of physical disability at the community level is essential for rehabilitation and supply of services. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of physical disability among adults in an urban community in Sri Lanka.
Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted among 2460 adults (18 -59 years of age) who were selected using cluster sampling. Physical disability was measured using a Physical Impairment Examination Tool (PIET) and World Health Organisation Disability Assessment Schedule II (WHODAS II).
Results: Prevalence of physical disability was 4.2% (95% CI= 3.5-5.1). Physical disability was higher among people in the age group of 40-59 years (6.5%, n=64) than among those in the age group of 18-39 years (2.6%, n=39) (P<0.05). Physical disability was more prevalent among females (4.4%, 95% CI= 4.2-4.6) than males (2.6%, 95% CI: 2.4-2.8), and among Tamils (7.8%, 95% CI=5.1%- 10.5%) than Sinhalese (3.3%, 95% CI=2.4%- 4.1%). It was higher among those who were divorced/widowed (58.3%, 95% CI=30.4- 86.2) than among married people (3.6%, 95% CI=2.8- 4.4). The prevalence of physical disability was 7.1% (95% CI=4.6- 9.5) among people with primary education, 4.5% (95% CI=3.4- 5.6) among those with secondary education, and 1.8% (95% CI=0.8- 2.8) among those with tertiary education. It was higher among the unemployed (7.2%, 95% CI=5.7-8.7) than the employed (1.8%, 95% CI=1.1-2.5). Age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, education levels and employment status were significantly associated with physical disability.
Conclusions: Though the prevalence of physical disability appears to be higher among Sri Lankan adults than among people in developed countries, it is less than among people in other South-East Asian countries. Associations with socio-demographic variables were consistent with other studies.