Does self-report of multimorbidity in later life predict impaired physical functioning, and might this be useful in clinical practice?
Clynes MA., Bevilacqua G., Jameson KA., Cooper C., Dennison EM.
BACKGROUND: Multimorbidity has been shown in several studies to relate to impaired physical function in later life. AIMS: To examine if self-report of multimorbidity predicts impaired physical functioning, as assessed by formal physical function testing, in community-dwelling older adults. METHODS: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were self-reported by 443 older community-dwelling UK adults via questionnaire, asking the question: 'Have you been told by a doctor that you have any of the following conditions?' Assessments of walking speed, chair stands and balance allowed us to create a composite score (0-12) on which impaired physical functioning was defined as ≤ 9. RESULTS: The mean age of participants was 75.5 ± 2.5 years for men and 75.8 ± 2.6 for women. The proportion of individuals with impaired physical functioning was 71.2% in women and 56.9% in men. Having four or more NCDs was associated with an increased risk of poor physical function in men and women (p < 0.05). The number of medications and medicated systems was associated with gait speed (p < 0.03 and < 0.02, respectively) and timed up-and-go tests (p < 0.03 and < 0.02, respectively) in women but not men. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Self-report of 4 or more NCDs was associated with an increased risk of poor physical function, an outcome which has previously been associated with adverse clinical sequelae. This observation may inform development of a simple screening tool to look for poor physical function in older adults.