We interviewed caregivers and reviewed medical records of 278 adults with mental retardation with and without Down syndrome, 45 to 74 years of age. Standardized morbidity ratios were used to compare frequency of medical disorders in these adults to frequency in the general population. In adults with mental retardation, the frequency of common age-related disorders was comparable to that in the general population, but there was an increased frequency of thyroid disorders, nonischemic heart disorders, and sensory impairment. Surveillance of health status and increased access to health care for screening and treatment of age-related disorders that are more frequent in adults with mental retardation would be important to prevent the development or delay the impact of these conditions and to promote healthy aging.
This research was supported by Grant No. IIRG-90-067 from the Alzheimer's Association, National Institutes of Health Grants No. AG09400 and R29 HD24170, and by funds provided by New York State through its Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. We thank the state and voluntary agencies whose cooperation was vital to the conduct of this study and the families who generously gave their time to participate in the Family Health Survey. We also thank Wayne Silverman for helpful comments on the manuscript.