Changes in lung function in older people from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

Expert Rev Respir Med. 2014 Aug;8(4):515-21. doi: 10.1586/17476348.2014.919226. Epub 2014 May 16.


Background: Decline in lung function with increasing age is common in older people. However, the rate of decline using the forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) in a longitudinal study in the elderly community dwellers is unknown.

Methods: We analyzed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing on people 50 years and older who had FEV1 measurement at Wave 2 and Wave 4 of 4 years of follow-up, respectively. A random coefficient model was employed to examine the changes in FEV1 and predict differences in the levels of FEV1 in older people.

Results: A total of 4224 participants were included in the study. The mean (± standard deviation [SD]) rate of change in FEV1 was a decline of 32.92 ± 0.96 ml/year. The absolute difference in mean FEV1 level between female and male participants was 767.07 ± 16.6 ml. It was 253.91 ± 22.7 ml lower in current smokers than in nonsmokers, 73.67 ± 18.67 ml lower in participants with a history of sputum in winter months than in participants without sputum, 63.32 ± 7.07 ml lower in participants with a higher dyspnea score than in participants with a lower dyspnea score and 67.77 ± 15.87 ml higher in participants with good health compared to participants with fair/poor health status. One microgram increase in C-reactive protein level lowered FEV1 by 4.66 ± 0.86 ml and one Hb of hemoglobin increased the FEV1 level by 4.78 ± 0.77 ml. All were statistically significant at p < 0.001.

Conclusions: The average rate of FEV1 decline in older people without respiratory diseases was found to be high. Lower level of FEV1 was also observed in current smokers, females, those with a history of sputum in winter months and in participants with higher dyspnea score or in those with poorer health status.

Keywords: COPD; ELSA; FEV1; longitudinal study; lung function; older people.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking