Injuries and illnesses ‘increase levels of elderly disability’

A new study has found that the illnesses and injuries that can restrict the activity of older adults.

Washington: A new study has found that the illnesses and injuries that can restrict the activity of older adults or land them in the hospital are linked to worsening functional ability, especially among those who are physically frail.

The research has been conducted by Yale School of Medicine researchers under the aegis of Thomas M. Gill, a Humana Foundation Professor of internal medicine (geriatrics), investigative medicine and epidemiology and public health at Yale.

“We now have a much better understanding of the complex and highly dynamic disabling process,” said Gill.

He pointed out the role of intervening illnesses and injuries on these transitions were little understood until this study shed some light on it.

Gill and his co-authors followed 754 adults age 70 and older with monthly phone interviews for over 10 years starting in 1998. The team assessed disability and ascertained exposure to intervening illnesses and injuries.

The team found that among the 637 participants, who had at least one functional transition, 90.7 percent had at least one hospital admission and 94.3 percent had at least one month of restricted activity. Hospitalization was associated with disability for eight of the nine transitions.

Among the possible reasons for hospitalization or restricted activity, fall-related injury led to the highest likelihood of developing new or worsening disability.

Gill notes that despite the reductions observed in the prevalence of disability over the past two decades, the number of disabled older Americans could increase substantially in the coming years with the aging of the baby boom generation.

“To address this increase, more aggressive efforts will be needed to prevent and manage intervening illnesses and injuries, given their apparent role in precipitating and perpetuating the disabling process,” said Gill.

The report appears in JAMA journal.