Sedentary behavior and mortality in older women: the Women's Health Initiative

Am J Prev Med. 2014 Feb;46(2):122-35. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.10.021.


Background: Although epidemiologic studies have shown associations between sedentary behavior and mortality, few have focused on older women with adequate minority representation and few have controlled for both physical activity and functional status.

Purpose: The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between sedentary time and total; cardiovascular disease (CVD); coronary heart disease (CHD); and cancer mortality in a prospective, multiethnic cohort of postmenopausal women.

Methods: The study population included 92,234 women aged 50-79 years at baseline (1993-1998) who participated in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study through September 2010. Self-reported sedentary time was assessed by questionnaire and examined in 4 categories (≤4, >4-8, ≥8-11, >11 hours). Mortality risks were examined using Cox proportional hazard models adjusting for confounders. Models were also stratified by age, race/ethnicity, body mass index, physical activity, physical function, and chronic disease to examine possible effect modification. Analyses were conducted in 2012-2013.

Results: The mean follow-up period was 12 years. Compared with women who reported the least sedentary time, women reporting the highest sedentary time had increased risk of all-cause mortality in the multivariate model (HR=1.12, 95% CI=1.05, 1.21). Results comparing the highest versus lowest categories for CVD, CHD, and cancer mortality were as follows: HR=1.13, 95% CI=0.99, 1.29; HR=1.27, 95% CI=1.04, 1.55; and HR=1.21, 95% CI=1.07, 1.37, respectively. For all mortality outcomes, there were significant linear tests for trend.

Conclusions: There was a linear relationship between greater amounts of sedentary time and mortality risk after controlling for multiple potential confounders.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Postmenopause
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sedentary Behavior* / ethnology
  • Women's Health* / ethnology