Associations between changes in anthropometric measures and mortality in old age: a role for mid-upper arm circumference?

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013 Mar;14(3):187-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2012.09.023. Epub 2012 Nov 16.


Objectives: In elderly individuals, little is known about changes in different anthropometric measures with respect to mortality. We examined the association between changes in eight anthropometric measures and mortality in an elderly population.

Design: Longitudinal study including baseline measurements in 1988-1990 and repeated measures in 1993.

Setting: European towns.

Participants: A total of 1061 older adults born in 1913-1918 from the Survey in Europe on Nutrition and the Elderly, A Concerted Action study were included in this study.

Measurements: Weight, body mass index, waist circumference, waist to hip ratio, waist to height ratio, mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC), triceps skinfold thickness, and corrected arm muscle area were taken during both measurements.

Results: A Cox regression model was used to examine the association between anthropometric changes (divided into quintiles, smallest change = reference category) and all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality over approximately 6 years of follow-up, adjusted for baseline measurement of application, age, sex, smoking, education, physical activity, and major chronic diseases. A decrease in weight (≥3.2 kg), waist circumference (≥3.1 cm), and MUAC (≥1.6 cm and 0.6-1.6 cm) were (near) significantly associated with an all-cause mortality risk of 1.48 (95% CI: 0.99-2.20), 1.52 (95% CI: 1.01-2.31), 1.81 (95% CI: 1.17-2.79), and 1.66 (95% CI: 1.10-2.49), respectively. Also for MUAC, an increase (≥1.3 cm) was significantly associated with an increased all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality risk [hazard ratio, 1.52 (95% CI: 1.00-2.31) and 1.94 (95% CI: 1.00-3.75), respectively].

Conclusion: Associations were observed for decreases in only 3 of 8 anthropometric measures and all-cause mortality. Decreases in MUAC had the strongest association with mortality and was the only measure in which an increase also was associated with mortality. This suggests a role for MUAC in the prediction of mortality in elderly individuals.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Arm / anatomy & histology*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors