Chewing ability and associated factors in older adults in Germany. Results from GEDA 2019/2020-EHIS

BMC Oral Health. 2023 Dec 9;23(1):988. doi: 10.1186/s12903-023-03736-y.


Background: Oral well-being is an important component of general well-being and quality of life, as it is greatly influenced by the ability to chew and speak, and thus by central factors of social interaction. Because quality of life and participation are important factors for health in older age, the aim of this article was to examine the chewing ability, including associated factors, for the older population in Germany on the basis of a nationally representative sample.

Methods: Database is the German Health Update (GEDA 2019/2020-EHIS), a population based cross-sectional survey of the Robert Koch Institute. In the telephone interview, participants aged 55 years and older were asked: "Do you have difficulty biting and chewing on hard foods such as a firm apple? Would you say 'no difficulty', 'some difficulty', 'a lot of difficulty' or 'cannot do at all/ unable to do'?" Prevalences and multivariate prevalence ratios (PR) were calculated with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) from log-Poisson regressions. Sociodemographic, health-, behavioral- and care-related characteristics were investigated as associated factors.

Results: The analyses were based on data from 12,944 participants (7,079 women, 5,865 men). The proportion of people with reduced chewing ability was 20.0%; 14.5% had minor difficulty, 5.5% had major difficulty. There were no differences between women and men. The most important associated factors for reduced chewing ability were old age (PR 1.8, 95% CI 1.5-2.1), low socioeconomic status (PR 2.0, 95% CI 1.7-2.5), limitations to usual activities due to health problems (PR 1.9, 1.6-2.2), depressive symptoms (PR 1.7, 1.5-2.1), daily smoking (PR 1.6, 95% CI 1.3-1.8), low dental utilization (PR 1.6, 95% CI 1.4-1.9), and perceived unmet needs for dental care (PR 1.7, 95% CI 1.5-2.1).

Conclusions: One fifth of adults from 55 years of age reported reduced chewing ability. Thus, this is a very common functional limitation in older age. Reduced chewing ability was associated with almost all investigated characteristics. Therefore, its prevention requires a holistic view in the living environment and health care context of older people. Given that chewing ability influences quality of life and social participation, maintaining or improving chewing ability is important for healthy aging.

Keywords: Dental health; Health behavior; Health care utilization; Health status; Oral health; Oral impairments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mastication*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Smoking