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Associations of behavioural risk factors and health status with changes in physical capability over 10 years of follow-up: The MRC National Survey of Health and Development

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel CooperORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Objectives: (1) To describe changes in objective measures of physical capability between ages 53 and 60-64 years; (2) to investigate the associations of behavioural risk factors (obesity, physical inactivity, smoking) and number of health conditions (range 0-4: hand osteoarthritis (OA); knee OA; severe respiratory symptoms; other disabling or life-threatening conditions (ie, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes)) at age 53 years with these changes. Design: Nationally representative prospective birth cohort study. Setting: England, Scotland and Wales. Participants: Up to 2093 men and women from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, who have been followed-up since birth in 1946, and underwent physical capability assessments performed by nurses following standard protocols in 1999 and 2006-2010. Main outcome measures: Grip strength and chair rise speed were assessed at ages 53 and 60-64 years. Four categories of change in grip strength and chair rise speed were identified: decline, stable high, stable low, a reference group who maintained physical capability within a 'normal' range. Results: Less healthy behavioural risk scores and an increase in the number of health conditions experienced were associated in a stepwise fashion with increased risk of decline in physical capability, and also of having low levels at baseline and remaining low. For example, the sex and mutually adjusted relative-risk ratios (95% CI) of being in the stable low versus reference category of chair rise speed were 1.58 (1.35-1.86) and 1.97 (1.57-2.47) per 1 unit change in behavioural risk score and health indicator count, respectively. Conclusions: These findings provide evidence of the associations of a range of modifiable factors with age-related changes in physical capability. They suggest the need to target multiple risk factors at least as early as mid-life when aiming to promote maintenance and prevent decline in physical capability in later life.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cooper R, Muniz-Terrera G, Kuh D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMJ Open

Year: 2016

Volume: 6

Issue: 4

Print publication date: 01/04/2016

Online publication date: 18/04/2016

Acceptance date: 23/03/2016

Date deposited: 21/01/2022

ISSN (electronic): 2044-6055

Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009962

PubMed id: 27091818


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