Objectives: With age, there is an increasing gap between relatively stable levels of self-rated health (SRH) and actual health status. This study investigates longitudinal changes in SRH and examines its sensitivity to changes in chronic conditions and functioning among people aged 90 and older.
Methods: In the Vitality 90+ Study, questionnaires were sent to all people aged 90 years and older living in Tampere, Finland. Included were respondents who provided data on the 2001 measurement and at least one follow-up measurement in 2003, 2007, or 2010 (N = 334). Generalized Estimating Equations analyses examined longitudinal change in SRH and the predictive value of number of chronic conditions and a functioning score based on 5 activities.
Results: Within 2 years, most people (56.3%) had unchanged SRH, but declined SRH (22.3%) was associated with worse baseline functioning and declined functioning. Clear declines in SRH after 6 and 9 years were associated with increased chronic conditions (odds ratio [OR] = 1.23) and decreased functioning (OR = 1.28). The impact of chronic conditions and functioning was smaller among institutionalized people (chronic conditions OR = 0.90; functioning OR = 1.18) than among people living independently (chronic conditions OR = 1.30; functioning OR = 1.44).
Discussion: SRH among nonagenarians was sensitive to changes in the number of chronic conditions and functioning although more pronounced on the longer than on the shorter term.
Keywords: Chronic disease; Function; Longitudinal studies; Nonagenarians; Self-rated health..