Purpose: To assess the value of functional status questions in predicting mortality, we conducted a 4-year prospective longitudinal follow-up study of functionally impaired community-dwelling elderly persons.
Subjects and methods: A total of 282 elderly (aged 64 years or older) patients of 76 community-based physicians who were UCLA clinical faculty members were assessed at baseline and at an average of 51 months later using scales from the Functional Status Questionnaire.
Results: By the end of the study, 24% of the sample had died. By means of a multivariate model, the following baseline characteristics were independently predictive of death: greater dysfunction on a scale of intermediate activities of daily living, male gender, living alone, white race, better quality of social interactions, and age. Initial baseline functional measures were also predictive of follow-up health status perceptions.
Conclusion: The assessment of information on physical functioning and the quality of social interactions provides prognostic information regarding mortality. Furthermore, of the independent predictors of death identified in this sample, only functional impairment and living alone are remediable. Whether improving functional status can reduce the risk of mortality remains to be determined.