Background: This study analyzed the incidence of disability and its risk factors in multiple dimensions in community-dwelling women and men of older age, between 1990 and 1999, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Methods: For this community-based prospective longitudinal study, data were obtained from the Rotterdam Study that comprised a cohort of 7983 elderly who are 55 and over. The study sample for incident disability consisted of 4258 subjects who were disability free at baseline and had complete outcome data at follow-up, 6 years later. Sociodemographic factors, lifestyle variables, health conditions and disability status were assessed at baseline and follow-up. Disability was defined as a Disability Index (DI) > or =0.50 according to the Health Assessment Questionnaire.
Results: Multivariate analyses, performed separately due to gender differences, revealed that age, self-rated health, overweight, depression, joint complaints, medication use were predictors of disability for both men and women. Stroke, falling and presence of comorbidities predicted disability in men only while having a partner, poor cognitive functioning, osteoarthritis and morning stiffness only predicted disability in women.
Conclusion: Identified risk factors in this study are to some extent modifiable, enabling interventive strategies, reckoning with gender differences in risk profile, in order to prevent disability.