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BMC Public Health. 2005 May 30;5:55.

Increase of mild disability in Japanese elders: a seven year follow-up cohort study.

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  • 1Department of Health Services Coordination, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Maidashi 3-1-1, Fukuoka, 812-8582 Japan.



Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world. In a 2002 census government report, 18.5% of Japanese were 65 years old and over and 7.9% were over 75 years old. In this ageing population, the increase in the number of dependent older persons, especially those with mild levels of disability, has had a significant impact on the insurance budget. This study examines the increase of mild disability and its related factors.


All community-dwelling residents aged 65 and over and without functional decline (n = 1560), of Omishima town, Japan, were assessed in 1996 using a simple illustrative measure, "the Typology of the Aged with Illustrations" to establish a baseline level of function and were followed annually until 2002. The prevalence and incidence of low to severe disability, and their association with chronic conditions present at the commencement of the study, was analyzed. A polychotomous logistic regression model was constructed to estimate the association of each chronic condition with two levels of disability.


An increase in mild functional decline was more prevalent than severe functional decline. The accumulation of mild disability was more prominent in women. The major chronic conditions associated with mild disability were chronic arthritis and diabetes in women, and cerebrovascular accident and malignancy in men.


This study showed a tendency for mild disability prevalence to increase in Japanese elders, and some risk factors were identified. As mild disability increasingly prevalent, these findings will help determine priorities for its prevention in Japanese elders.

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