Physical capability predicts mortality in late mid-life as well as in old age: Findings from a large British cohort study.

25 May 2018

INTRODUCTION: Low physical capability predicts mortality, perhaps by association with co-morbidity. However, few studies include participants <70years old with lower co-morbidity burdens compared to older adults. We examined relationships between usual walking speed (UWS), timed chair stands speed, grip strength, standing balance and all-cause mortality in 8477 participants aged 48-92years enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer-Norfolk study. METHODS: Participants (55.1% female) were followed up for 6.0 years (inter-quartile range 4.6, 7.5). Associations were examined using Cox proportional hazards regression by age-group (<70years versus ≥70years) and then in the whole cohort adjusted for age, sex, anthropometry, history of diabetes/stroke/myocardial infarction/cancer, smoking, alcohol intake, socioeconomic status, television viewing time and physical activity. RESULTS: Age and sex adjusted associations were similar in younger and older participants (Pinteraction all >0.05) and those with lower physical capability had higher mortality risk. For example, in those <70years old hazard ratios (95% confidence interval) for mortality in the third, second and lowest sex-specific quartiles of UWS compared to the highest were 1.21 (0.75, 1.96), 2.11 (1.35, 3.28) and 2.91 (1.84, 4.62) and in participants ≥70years old were 1.19 (0.73, 1.95), 2.09 (1.35, 3.24) and 2.64 (1.73, 4.02) respectively. In the whole cohort, strong associations between all physical capability tests and mortality persisted after multivariable adjustment and after excluding participants with co-morbidity. CONCLUSIONS: Physical capability was independently predictive of future mortality risk with similar associations in late mid-life, when co-morbidity burden is lower, as at older age.