Open Access Research article

Predictors of mortality among elderly people living in a south Indian urban community; a 10/66 Dementia Research Group prospective population-based cohort study

AT Jotheeswaran1, Joseph D Williams1 and Martin J Prince2*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Community Health, Voluntary Health Services, Chennai, India

2 Centre for Global Mental Health, Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, P060, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:366  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-366

Published: 23 June 2010



Eighty percent of deaths occur in low and middle income countries (LMIC), where chronic diseases are the leading cause. Most of these deaths are of older people, but there is little information on the extent, pattern and predictors of their mortality. We studied these among people aged 65 years and over living in urban catchment areas in Chennai, south India.


In a prospective population cohort study, 1005 participants were followed-up after three years. Baseline assessment included sociodemographic and socioeconomic characteristics, health behaviours, physical, mental and cognitive disorders, disability and subjective global health.


At follow-up, 257 (25.6%) were not traced. Baseline characteristics were similar to the 748 whose vital status was ascertained; 154 (20.6%) had died. The mortality rate was 92.5/1000 per annum for men and 51.0/1000 per annum for women. Adjusting for age and sex, mortality was associated with older age, male sex, having no friends, physical inactivity, smaller arm circumference, dementia, depression, poor self-rated health and disability. A parsimonious model included, in order of aetiologic force, male sex, smaller arm circumference, age, disability, and dementia. The total population attributable risk fraction was 0.90.


A balanced approach to prevention of chronic disease deaths requires some attention to proximal risk factors in older people. Smoking and obesity seem much less relevant than in younger people. Undernutrition is preventable. While dementia makes the largest contribution to disability and dependency, comorbidity is the rule, and more attention should be given to the chronic care needs of those affected, and their carers.