Original Article| Volume 35, P66-72, November 2016

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Three year functional changes and long-term mortality hazard in community-dwelling older men


      • Physical function is a robust predictor of long-term mortality in older men.
      • Older community-dwelling men can experience functional changes over a 3-year time.
      • Repeated functional assessment can provide additional prognostic information.
      • Most prognostic information lays in the final assessment of physical function.



      Low levels of physical function have been associated with higher mortality hazard in older persons. However, few studies have investigated the association between functional changes and subsequent mortality. This study aimed to examine whether 3-year functional changes independently predict subsequent all-cause mortality.


      This population-based cohort study included 171 community-dwelling men aged ≥71 years at wave 2 (baseline of the present analysis), living in the semi-rural community of Merelbeke (Belgium). Physical function assessments included the Short Form-36 (SF-36) Physical Function Index, Grip strength, Chair rising, and Timed Up and Go. Changes over a 3-year time were calculated using data obtained at four annual visits.


      After a 15-year follow-up, 149 men (87%) died. Median survival time was 8.2 (4.2–12.4) years. Physical function assessed at a single time point (at wave 2 or wave 5) was significantly associated with subsequent mortality hazard, independently from future or preceding 3-year changes. Greater functional declines during the 3-year follow-up were associated with higher mortality hazards. These associations were 1) more pronounced within the first seven years, 2) independent from baseline age, polypharmacy, depression, disability, and physical function, and 3) no longer significant when closure physical function was taken into account.


      Physical function assessed at a single time point is a robust predictor of all-cause long-term mortality in community-dwelling older men. Yet, repeated assessments of physical function can provide prognostic information beyond that available from single initial assessment. However, with repeated assessments, most prognostic information can be found in the final assessment of physical function.


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