Open Access Open Badges Research article

Prevalence of disability in a composite ≥75 year-old population in Spain: A screening survey based on the International Classification of Functioning

Javier Virués-Ortega12*, Jesús de Pedro-Cuesta12, Manuel Seijo-Martínez3, Pedro Saz4, Fernando Sánchez-Sánchez5, Fermina Rojo-Pérez6, Fernanda Rodríguez7, Raimundo Mateos8, Pablo Martínez-Martín12, Ignacio Mahillo2, Jordi Gascon-Bayarri9, Josep Garre-Olmo10, Francisco Jose García11, Gloria Fernández-Mayoralas6, Felix Bermejo-Pareja5, Alberto Bergareche12, Javier Almazan-Isla2 and Jose Luis del Barrio2

Author Affiliations

1 Research Network in Neurodegenerative Diseases (CIBERNED), Carlos III Institute of Health, Madrid, Spain

2 Department of Applied Epidemiology, National Centre for Epidemiology, Carlos III Institute of Health, Madrid, Spain

3 Neurology Service, Hospital do Salnés, Pontevedra, Spain

4 Department of Medicine and Psychiatry, Zaragoza University and CIBERSAM, Zaragoza, Spain

5 Neurology Department, 12 de Octubre University Teaching Hospital, Madrid, Spain

6 Center for Human and Social Sciences, Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), Madrid, Spain

7 Neurology Unit, Segovia General Hospital, Segovia, Spain

8 Psychiatry Department, University of Santiago de Compostela and Psychogeriatrics Unit, Santiago de Compostela University Hospital, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

9 Dementia Diagnosis & Treatment Unit, Neurology Department, Bellvitge University Teaching Hospital, Barcelona, Spain

10 Dementia Unit, Santa Caterina Hospital, Gerona, Spain

11 Virgen del Valle Geriatric Hospital, Toledo, Spain

12 Neurology Department, Donostia Hospital, Bidasoa-Hondarribia Hospital, Guipúzcoa, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:176  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-176

Published: 23 March 2011



The prevalence and predictors of functional status and disability of elderly people have been studied in several European countries including Spain. However, there has been no population-based study incorporating the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) framework as the basis for assessing disability. The present study reports prevalence rates for mild, moderate, and severe/extreme disability by the domains of activities and participation of the ICF.


Nine populations surveyed in previous prevalence studies contributed probabilistic and geographically defined samples in June 2005. The study sample was composed of 503 subjects aged ≥75 years. We implemented a two-phase screening design using the MMSE and the World Health Organization-Disability Assessment Schedule 2nd edition (WHO-DAS II, 12 items) as cognitive and disability screening tools, respectively. Participants scoring within the positive range of the disability screening were administered the full WHO-DAS II (36 items; score range: 0-100) assessing the following areas: Understanding and communication, Getting along with people, Life activities, Getting around, Participation in society, and Self-care. Each disability area assessed by WHO-DAS II (36 items) was reported according to the ICF severity ranges (No problem, 0-4; Mild disability, 5-24; Moderate disability, 25-49; Severe/Extreme disability, 50-100).


The age-adjusted disability prevalence figures were: 39.17 ± 2.18%, 15.31 ± 1.61%, and 10.14 ± 1.35% for mild, moderate, and severe/extreme disability, respectively. Severe and extreme disability prevalence in mobility and life activities was three times higher than the average, and highest among women. Sex variations were minimal, although life activities for women of 85 years and over had more severe/extreme disability as compared to men (OR = 5.15 95% CI 3.19-8.32).


Disability is highly prevalent among the Spanish elderly. Sex- and age-specific variations of disability are associated with particular disability domains.