Open Access Research article

Cohort differences in disease and disability in the young-old: findings from the MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC-CFAS)

Carol Jagger1*, Ruth J Matthews1, Fiona E Matthews2, Nicola A Spiers1, Judith Nickson3, Eugene S Paykel4, Felicia A Huppert4, Carol Brayne3 and the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC-CFAS)

Author affiliations

1 Leicester Nuffield Research Unit, Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, UK

2 MRC Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, UK

3 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge, UK

4 Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2007, 7:156  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-156

Published: 13 July 2007

Abstract

Background

Projections of health and social care need are highly sensitive to assumptions about cohort trends in health and disability. We use a repeated population-based cross-sectional study from the Cambridgeshire centre of the UK Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study to investigate trends in the health of the young-old UK population

Methods

Non-overlapping cohorts of men and women aged 65–69 years in 1991/2 (n = 689) and 1996/7 (n = 687) were compared on: self-reported diseases and conditions; self-rated health; mobility limitation; disability by logistic regression and four-year survival by Cox Proportional Hazards Regression models, with adjustments for differences in socio-economic and lifestyle factors.

Results

Survival was similar between cohorts (HR: 0.91, 95% CI: 0.62 to 1.32). There was a significant increase in the number of conditions reported between cohorts, with more participants reporting 3 or more conditions in the new cohort (14.2% vs. 10.1%). When individual conditions were considered, there was a 10% increase in the reporting of arthritis and a significant increase in the reporting of chronic airways obstruction (OR: 1.36, 95% CI: 1.04 to 1.78).

Conclusion

This study provides evidence of rising levels of ill-health, as measured by the prevalence of self-reported chronic conditions, in the newer cohorts of the young-old. Though changes in diagnosis or reporting of disease cannot, as yet, be excluded, to better understand whether our findings reflect real increases in ill-health, investment should be made into improved population-based databases, linking self-report and objective measures of health and function, and including those in long-term care.