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Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Dec 15;172(12):1415-23. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwq294. Epub 2010 Oct 20.

Why does lung function predict mortality? Results from the Whitehall II Cohort Study.

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  • 1INSERM, U1018, Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, Hôpital Paul-Brousse, 16 avenue Paul Vaillant Couturier, Bâtiment 15/16, F-94807, Villejuif, France.


The authors examined the extent to which socioeconomic position, behavior-related factors, cardiovascular risk factors, inflammatory markers, and chronic diseases explain the association between poor lung function and mortality in 4,817 participants (68.9% men) from the Whitehall II Study aged 60.8 years (standard deviation, 5.9), on average. Forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV(1)) was used to measure lung function in 2002-2004. A total of 139 participants died during a mean follow-up period of 6.4 years (standard deviation, 0.8). In a model adjusted for age and sex, being in the lowest tertile of FEV(1)/height(2) was associated with a 1.92-fold (95% confidence interval: 1.35, 2.73) increased risk of mortality compared with being in the top 2 tertiles. Once age, sex, and smoking history were taken into account, the most important explanatory factors for this association were inflammatory markers (21.3% reduction in the FEV(1)/height(2)-mortality association), coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (11.7% reduction), and alcohol consumption, diet, physical activity, and body mass index (9.8% reduction). The contribution of socioeconomic position and cardiovascular risk factors was small (≤ 3.5% reduction). Taken together, these factors explained 32.5% of the association. Multiple pathways link lung function to mortality; these results show inflammatory markers to be particularly important.

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