Aging-related trajectories of lung function in the general population-The Doetinchem Cohort Study

PLoS One. 2018 May 16;13(5):e0197250. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197250. eCollection 2018.


The objective of this study was to explore trajectories of lung function decline with age in the general population, and to study the effect of sociodemographic and life style related risk factors, in particular smoking and BMI. For this purpose, we used data from the Doetinchem Cohort Study (DCS) of men and women, selected randomly from the general population and aged 20-59 years at inclusion in 1987-1991, and followed until the present. Participants in the DCS are assessed every five years. Spirometry has been performed as part of this assessment from 1994 onwards. Participants were included in this study if spirometric measurement of FEV1, which in this study was the main parameter of interest, was acceptable and reproducible on at least one measurement round, leading to the inclusion of 5727 individuals (3008 females). Statistical analysis revealed three typical trajectories. The majority of participants followed a trajectory that closely adhered to the Global Lung Initiative Reference values (94.9% of men and 96.4% of women). Two other trajectories showed a more pronounced decline. Smoking and the presence of respiratory complaints were the best predictors of a trajectory with stronger decline. A greater BMI over the follow-up period was associated with a more unfavorable FEV1 course both in men (β = -0.027 (SD = 0.002); P < 0.001) and in women (β = -0.008 (SD = 0.001); P < 0.001). Smokers at baseline who quit the habit during follow-up, showed smaller decline in FEV1 in comparison to persistent smokers, independent of BMI change (In men β = -0.074 (SD = 0.020); P < 0.001. In women β = -0.277 (SD = 0.068); P < 0.001). In conclusion, three typical trajectories of age-related FEV1 decline could be distinguished. Change in the lifestyle related risk factors, BMI and smoking, significantly impact aging-related decline of lung function. Identifying deviant trajectories may help in early recognition of those at risk of a diagnosis of lung disease later in life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology
  • Smoking / physiopathology
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Spirometry
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The Doetinchem Cohort Study is funded by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.