The Paralysis Population survey shows that 1.275 million have had a spinal cord injury and more than 5.6 million Americans live with some form of paralysis. The highest previous estimates were 250,000 and roughly 4 million, respectively.

"This study reveals important findings about the prevalence of paralysis and spinal cord injury, but we must also remember that behind each of these statistics are real people, who along with the rest of their families are facing urgent needs," says Edwin Trevathan, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. This is a crucial first step to providing appropriate public health supports for this community in understanding how many people live with the condition, who they are, and what they need."

Click here to view the survey online or download a PDF.

Highlights include:

•    Paralysis is dramatically more widespread than previously thought. Approximately 1.9% of the US population, or 5,596,000 people, reported they were living with some form of paralysis, defined by the study as a central nervous system disorder resulting in difficulty or inability to move the upper or lower extremities. This is about 40% more Americans living with paralysis than previously estimated.

•    Spinal cord injury is also more prevalent than previously estimated. Data indicate that 1,275,000 people in the United States are living with spinal cord injury—more than five times the number of Americans previously estimated in 2008 (255,702).

•    We are more certain about causes of paralysis. The leading cause of paralysis was stroke (29%), followed by spinal cord injury (23%), and multiple sclerosis (17%).

•    Paralysis appears to be disproportionately distributed among some minority communities—such as African Americans and Native Americans—but not all. Hispanics who are living with paralysis represent approximately the same percentage as those who report being Hispanic in the United States census.

•    People living with paralysis have households with lower incomes. Household income for those with paralysis is heavily skewed toward lower-income brackets and is significantly lower than household income for the country as a whole. Roughly 25% of households with a person who is paralyzed earn less than $10,000 per year, compared with only 7% of households in the general population.

[Source: Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation]