Background: Low body mass index is a general measure of thinness. However, its measurement can be cumbersome in older persons and other simple anthropometric measures may be more strongly associated with mortality. Therefore, associations of low mid-upper arm circumference, calf circumference, and body mass index with mortality were examined in older persons.
Methods: Data of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, a population-based cohort study in the Netherlands, were used. The present study included community-dwelling persons 65 years and older in 1992-1993 (n = 1,667), who were followed until 2007 for their vital status. Associations between anthropometric measures and 15-year mortality were examined by spline regression models and, below the nadir, Cox regression models, transforming all measures to sex-specific Z scores.
Results: Mortality rates were 599 of 826 (73%) in men and 479 of 841 (57%) in women. Below the nadir, the hazard ratio of mortality per 1 standard deviation lower mid-upper arm circumference was 1.79 (95% confidence interval, 1.48-2.16) in men and 2.26 (1.71-3.00) in women. For calf circumference, the hazard ratio was 1.45 (1.22-1.71) in men and 1.30 (1.15-1.48) in women and for body mass index 1.38 (1.17-1.61) in men and 1.56 (1.10-2.21) in women. Excluding deaths within the first 3 years after baseline did not change these associations. Excluding those with a smoking history, obstructive lung disease, or cancer attenuated the associations of calf circumference (men) and body mass index (women).
Conclusions: Based on the stronger association with mortality and given a more easy assessment in older persons, mid-upper arm circumference seems a more feasible and valid anthropometric measure of thinness than body mass index in older men and women.