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Variations in disability and quality of life with age and sex between eight lower income and middle-income countries: data from the INDEPTH WHO-SAGE collaboration


Background Disability and quality of life are key outcomes for older people. Little is known about how these measures vary with age and gender across lower income and middle-income countries; such information is necessary to tailor health and social care policy to promote healthy ageing and minimise disability.

Methods We analysed data from participants aged 50 years and over from health and demographic surveillance system sites of the International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and their Health Network in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh, using an abbreviated version of the WHO Study on global AGEing survey instrument. We used the eight-item WHO Quality of Life (WHOQoL) tool to measure quality of life and theWHO Disability Assessment Schedule, version 2 (WHODAS-II) tool to measure disability. We collected selected health status measures via the survey instrument and collected demographic and socioeconomic data from linked surveillance site information. We performed regression analyses to quantify differences between countries in the relationship between age, gender and both quality of life and disability, and we used anchoring vignettes to account for differences in interpretation of disability severity.

Results We included 43 935 individuals in the analysis. Mean age was 63.7 years (SD 9.7) and 24 434 (55.6%) were women. In unadjusted analyses across all countries, WHOQoL scores worsened by 0.13 points (95% CI 0.12 to 0.14) per year increase in age and WHODAS scores worsened by 0.60 points (95% CI 0.57 to 0.64). WHODAS-II and WHOQoL scores varied markedly between countries, as did the gradient of scores with increasing age. In regression analyses, differences were not fully explained by age, socioeconomic status, marital status, education or health factors. Differences in disability scores between countries were not explained by differences in anchoring vignette responses.

Conclusions The relationship between age, sex and both disability and quality of life varies between countries. The findings may guide tailoring of interventions to individual country needs, although these associations require further study.

  • other infection, disease, disorder, or injury
  • cross-sectional survey
  • epidemiology

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