Diabetes mellitus and its association with central obesity and disability among older adults: a global perspective

Exp Gerontol. 2015 Apr;64:70-7. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2015.02.010. Epub 2015 Feb 16.


The aim of the study was to evaluate the association between various factors and diabetes type II (DM) with a particular emphasis on indicators of central obesity, and to compare the effect of DM on disability among elder populations (≥ 50 years old) in nine countries. Data were available for 52,946 people aged ≥ 18 years who participated in the WHO Study on global AGEing and adult health and the Collaborative Research on Ageing in Europe studies conducted between 2007 and 2012. DM was defined as self-report of physician diagnosis. Height, weight, and waist circumference were measured. Disability status was assessed with the WHODAS II questionnaire. The overall prevalence of DM was 7.9% and ranged from 3.8% (Ghana) to 17.6% (Mexico). A 10 cm increase in waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio of >0.5 were associated with a significant 1.26 (India) to 1.77 (Finland), and 1.68 (China, Spain) to 5.40 (Finland) times higher odds for DM respectively. No significant associations were observed in Mexico and South Africa. DM was associated with significantly higher disability status in all countries except Mexico in the model adjusted for demographics and smoking. The inclusion of chronic conditions associated with diabetes in the model attenuated the coefficients in varying degrees depending on the country. A considerable proportion of the studied older population had DM. Central obesity may be a key factor for the prevention of DM among older populations globally. Prevention of DM especially among the older population globally may contribute to reducing the burden of disability.

Keywords: Diabetes mellitus; Disability; Obesity; Older adults; Waist circumference; Waist-to-height ratio.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Obesity, Abdominal / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Waist Circumference
  • Waist-Height Ratio
  • World Health Organization