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Public Health Rep. 1994 Nov-Dec;109(6):782-90.

The health burden of diabetes for the elderly in four communities.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0560.


Although diabetes is a common health problem of the elderly, the impact of diabetes on health and functioning in older persons is not well established. The purpose of this analysis was to identify health conditions accompanying diabetes in four samples of community dwelling elderly people. The study samples consisted of 13,601 persons ages 65 or older who participated in the Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies in the Elderly (EPESE). Extensive interviews were conducted in respondents' homes to obtain information on diabetes and other health conditions, health behaviors, use of health services, and demographic characteristics. A lifetime history of diabetes was reported by 14 percent of respondents. The prevalence of the disease was higher in blacks than whites, especially among women. Persons with diabetes were more likely to report myocardial infarction, stroke, vision problems, physical disability, incontinence, and nursing home stays than persons without diabetes, but the diabetics were less likely to consume alcohol or tobacco. Those with diabetes were only slightly heavier than those without diabetes at the time of the interview. However, body mass at age 50 was substantially greater among persons with diabetes. Associations between diabetes and other health conditions and behaviors were similar for whites and blacks. These results show that aged persons with diabetes experience substantial comorbidity, which has important ramifications for functioning and survival.

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