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Aging Clin Exp Res. 2006 Oct;18(5):352-8.

Decreasing prevalence of disability in activities of daily living, functional limitations and poor self-rated health: a 6-year follow-up study in Spain.

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Département de Médecine sociale et préventive, Université de Montréal, CP 6128, Succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal H3C 3J7, Québec, Canada.



Forecasting functional status in elderly populations is uncertain. Our aim is to provide evidence of population trends of Activities of Daily Living (ADL) disability, functional limitations and self-rated health.


Data come from a longitudinal study of aging in Leganés (Spain), collected in 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1999, on a representative sample of 1560 community dwelling people over 65. Response rate at baseline was 82%. ADL disability was defined as needing help in at least one of the following: walking across a small room, taking a shower, toileting, getting out of bed, getting up from a chair, using the toilet, dressing and eating. Functional limitations were based on questions of difficulty with upper and lower limbs. Self-rated health was assessed with a single question. ADL disability, functional limitations and self-rated health were regressed on age, survey year, sex and education.


There are significant declines in ADL disability, functional limitations and poor self-rated health at every age and up to very advanced ages. Over 90, the ADL disability trend may be reversed, with the emergence of a very old and disabled population. Women and people with little education have a higher prevalence of disability, functional limitations and poor health, when compared with men and those with higher education.


Results suggest the postponement of severe disability onset in this Spanish population, leading to longer healthy life expectancy, and support the emergence of a very disabled population over 90 years of age.

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