Context: Vitamin D deficiency contributes to skeletal diseases and is highly prevalent among institutionalized elderly patients. Whether low 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) concentrations are an independent risk factor for mortality in these patients is, however, unclear.
Objective: We aimed to evaluate whether 25(OH)D concentrations are associated with mortality.
Design, setting, and participants: This is a prospective cohort study among elderly female patients (age >70 yr) recruited from 95 nursing homes in Austria.
Main outcome measures: We calculated Cox proportional hazard ratios (HR) for all-cause mortality according to 25(OH)D quartiles.
Results: We examined 961 study participants (age 83.7 ± 6.1 yr). Median 25(OH)D concentration was 17.5 (interquartile range 13.7-25.5) nmol/liter, and 93% of our cohort had 25(OH)D levels below 50 nmol/liter. During a mean follow-up time of 27 ± 8 months, 284 patients died. Compared with the fourth quartile (25[OH]D >25.5 nmol/liter), the age-adjusted HR (with 95% confidence interval) was 1.49 (1.07-2.10) in the first 25(OH)D quartile (25[OH]D <14.0 nmol/liter), and this association remained significant after multivariate adjustments (HR = 1.56; 95% confidence interval = 1.01-2.40).
Conclusions: This Austrian study suggests that the majority of institutionalized female patients are vitamin D deficient during winter and that there was an inverse association of 25(OH)D and mortality. These data underscore the urgent need for effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency, in particular in the setting of nursing homes.