Going from bad to worse: a stochastic model of transitions in deficit accumulation, in relation to mortality

Mech Ageing Dev. 2006 May;127(5):490-3. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2006.01.007. Epub 2006 Mar 7.


As people age, they accumulate deficits. The more deficits they accumulate, the greater their vulnerability, which can be expressed as the probability to accumulate even more deficits, or to die. The probability of death is known to be exponentially related to the number of deficits. Using data from elderly (aged 65 + years) participants in the Canadian Study of Health and Aging (n = 9008), we investigated the relationship between the number of deficits and the change in the number of deficits over two successive 5 year intervals. We show that the probabilities of changes in the number of deficits, in relation to baseline, are well fitted (R(2) > 0.98) by a simple distribution, with two parameters. The model suggests a maximum to deficit accumulation, and illustrates no level of deficit accumulation at which there is a net gain in fitness. Age-related deficit accumulation is highly characteristic, and can be modeled as a stochastic process with readily interpretable parameters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Markov Chains
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Risk
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Survival Analysis