Massage therapy has been shown to increase flexibility and assist people with conditions including arthritis, limited range of motion and fibromyalgia. New research shows more middle-aged Americans report mobility-related disabilities than in recent years. The study was conducted by the RAND Corporation and the University of Michigan.

Although there has been a mobility-related disability decline in people ages 65 and over, from 1997 to 2007, that same time-span saw an increase in mobility-related disability in people ages 50 to 64.

Mobility-related disability translates to the need for help in daily personal care activities, such as getting out of bed or getting around inside a home, according to a press release from the University of Michigan.

“This is a disappointing trend with potentially far-reaching and long-term negative consequences,” said Richard Suzman, director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging, which funded the study. “If people have such difficulties in middle age, how can we expect that this age group, today’s baby boomers, will be able to take care of itself with advancing age? If it continues, this trend could have a significant effect on the need for long-term care in the future.”

The reason for the increase is not clear, although many of those reporting disabilities say they are due to health problems that began in their 30s and 40s, the press release noted.

Researchers examined disability trends among people aged 50 to 64 by analyzing information from the 1997 to 2007 National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative effort that asks thousands of community-dwelling Americans each year about a broad range of issues regarding their health status.

More than 40 percent of people ages 50 to 64 reported that because of a health problem they had difficulty with at least one of nine physical functions and many reported problems with more than one.

Over the study period, researchers noted a significant increase in the number of people reporting that a health problem made it difficult for them to stoop, stand for two hours, walk a quarter mile or climb 10 steps without resting.

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