Low mid-upper arm circumference, calf circumference, and body mass index and mortality in older persons

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2010 Oct;65(10):1107-14. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glq100. Epub 2010 Jun 13.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anthropometry
  • Arm / anatomy & histology*
  • Arm / physiology
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / anatomy & histology*
  • Leg / physiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Netherlands
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin


  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin