Objectives. This study examined sex differences in the prevalence of mobility disability in older adults according to the influences of three components of prevalence: disability incidence, recovery from disability, and mortality. Methods. Participants in a population-based study of older adults from three communities in the United States (N= 10,263) were studied for up to 7 years. Life table methods were used to estimate the influence of each of the three components of disability prevalence in women and men. Sex differences in probabilities for transition states were measured by relative risks derived from a single model using a Markov chain approach. Results. The proportion of disabled women increased from 22% of women aged 70 years to 81% of those aged 90 years. In men, comparable figures were 15% and 57%. Incidence had the greatest impact on the sex differences in disability prevalence until age 90 and older when recovery rates had a greater impact on differences in prevalence. Mortality differences in men and women had only a modest impact on sex differences in disability prevalence. These findings initially seemed to contradict striking sex differences observed in the relative risks for mortality in men compared with women. Subsequent graphical analyses showed that incidence rather than recovery or mortality largely accounted for sex differences in disability prevalence in old age. Conclusion. Disability incidence, recovery from disability, and mortality dynamically influence the sex differences in the prevalence of mobility disability. However, incidence has the greatest impact overall on the higher prevalence of disability in women compared with men.
|Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
|Published - 1 Jan 2000