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Are objective measures of physical capability in midlife associated with all-cause mortality?

standing balance_v_Variation_2.jpgResearchers at LHA, led by Dr Rachel Cooper, have recently had a study published in the British Medical Journal. The findings from this paper have also been reported in many national newspapers including The Times, The Telegraph and The Independent.

The paper looked at whether objective measures of physical capability in midlife are associated with all-cause mortality.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have previously provided evidence of associations between better performance in objective tests of physical capability and lower all cause-mortality rates in community-dwelling older populations. This new study demonstrates that even in midlife objective assessment of physical capability may identify those people less likely to achieve a long and healthy life.

The study included 2766 study participants from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development whose physical capability had been assessed at age 53 (in 1999) and who were linked to the National Health Service Central Register for mortality notification. The measures of physical capability were grip strength, chair rise speed and standing balance time.

177 deaths (88 due to cancer, 47 to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 42 to other causes) occurred between ages 53 and 66. Participants with lower physical capability scores at age 53 years tended to have lower socioeconomic position, less healthy lifestyles and higher prevalence of self-reported CVD, diabetes and severe respiratory symptoms when compared with those with higher scores. Even after taking account of these factors, people in the lowest fifth of performance were found to have higher rates of all-cause mortality than those in the highest fifth of performance.

The findings suggest that people with poor physical capability in midlife (i.e. who have relatively low performance or who are unable to perform the tests for health reasons) are an important target group. Further research is needed to identify the most effective interventions as studies so far have only focused on high risk older people.

The full paper is available to read from the BMJ website