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Decline in Health for Older Adults: Five-Year Change in 13 Key Measures of Standardized Health
J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013 (2013)
  • Paula Diehr, University of Washington
  • Stephen Thielke, University of Washington
  • Anne Newman, University of Pittsburgh
Abstract
BACKGROUND: The health of older adults declines over time, but there are many ways of measuring health. It is unclear whether all health measures decline at the same rate or whether some aspects of health are less sensitive to aging than others. METHODS: We compared the decline in 13 measures of physical, mental, and functional health from the Cardiovascular Health Study: hospitalization, bed days, cognition, extremity strength, feelings about life as a whole, satisfaction with the purpose of life, self-rated health, depression, digit symbol substitution test, grip strength, activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, and gait speed. Each measure was standardized against self-rated health. We compared the 5-year change to see which of the 13 measures declined the fastest and the slowest. RESULTS: The 5-year change in standardized health varied from a decline of 12 points (out of 100) for hospitalization to a decline of 17 points for gait speed. In most comparisons, standardized health from hospitalization and bed days declined the least, whereas health measured by activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, and gait speed declined the most. These rankings were independent of age, sex, mortality patterns, and the method of standardization. CONCLUSIONS: All of the health variables declined, on average, with advancing age, but at significantly different rates. Standardized measures of mental health, cognition, quality of life, and hospital utilization did not decline as fast as gait speed, activities of daily living, and instrumental activities of daily living. Public health interventions to address problems with gait speed, activities of daily living, and instrumental activities of daily living may help older adults to remain healthier in all dimensions.
Publication Date
May 13, 2013
Citation Information
Paula Diehr, Stephen Thielke and Anne Newman. "Decline in Health for Older Adults: Five-Year Change in 13 Key Measures of Standardized Health" J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013 (2013)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/paula_diehr/62/