Functional Impairment in Middle Age Often Leads to Further Decline

Note: CTSI supported the lead author lead author and KL2 scholar Rebecca Brown, MD, MPH, through the K Scholars Program.

Study Finds More than 1 in 5 Adults Experience Impairment Before Age 64​

By Scott Maier via UCSF.edu

Rebecca Brown
Rebecca Brown, MD, MPH, KL2 Scholar & lead author

Nearly 40 percent of individuals who experience an episode of functional impairment in middle age see further functional decline, or even death, within 10 years, according to a study by researchers at UC San Francisco and the affiliated San Francisco VA Health Care System.

In a 22-year data study of nearly 6,900 middle-aged adults, the researchers also found that more than 1 in 5 developed functional impairments before age 64, making the condition more common than normally assumed. The study appears Nov. 14, 2017, in Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Our findings challenge the traditional thinking that functional impairment in middle age is just a temporary phenomenon,” said lead author Rebecca Brown, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics at UCSF. “We show that people who experienced even a brief episode of functional impairment in middle age were at increased risk for further functional decline over time.”

The findings also suggest that interventions to prevent further functional decline in older age may hold promise for middle-aged adults, she said, but need to be tailored to meet their unique needs.

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