Allostatic load as a predictor of functional decline. MacArthur studies of successful aging

J Clin Epidemiol. 2002 Jul;55(7):696-710. doi: 10.1016/s0895-4356(02)00399-2.


Allostatic load has been proposed as a cumulative measure of dysregulation across multiple physiological systems, and has been postulated to impact health risks. In the allostatic load model, increased risk is hypothesized to result not only from large and clinically significant dysregulation in individual systems, but also from more modest dysregulation, if present in multiple systems. Our objective was to construct an allostatic load score by optimally combining several physiologic measurements, and to examine its association with future functional decline. We analyzed data from a 7-year longitudinal study of a community-based cohort, whose age at baseline was between 70 and 79 years. Canonical correlation analysis was used to study the association of 10 biological measurements representing allostatic load with declines in scores on five tests each of physical and cognitive function over two follow-up periods: 1998-1991 and 1991-1995. We used bootstrapping to evaluate the stability of the canonical correlation and canonical weights. The canonical correlation between allostatic load and the 20 decline scores was 0.43 (P =.03) and the [25th, 75th] percentile interval of its distribution over 200 bootstrapped subsamples of the cohort was [0.48, 0.53]. These findings were not substantially affected by adjusting for covariates and cardiovascular disease. We conclude that a summary measure of physiologic dysregulation, such as allostatic load, is an independent predictor of functional decline in elderly men and women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests