The decline of directly observed physical function performance among U.S. Chinese older adults
Publication Date: 07/01/2017
Background: Physical function decline is a major public health concern and can predict later mortality. This study aims to examine the sociodemographic factors associated with physical function decline among U.S. Chinese older adults through a longitudinal population-based study. Methods: Data were derived from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly (PINE) at two time points: 2011–2013 and 2013–2015. Physical function was measured by observed physical performance testing, including chair stand, tandem stand, and timed walk. Mixed-effect models were used to analyze the demographic risk factors associated with physical function decline. Results: Of the 2,713 participants in waves 1 and 2, their average age was 72.6 years old, 58.4% were female, with 8.7 years of education average, and 85.8% had an annual individual income of less than $10,000. Our findings show subjects of older age, female sex, lower education, lower income, and a greater number of medical comorbidities had lower physical function levels at baseline. Older adults experienced a faster decline in physical function for the overall performance measure (β = −.02, p < .001). Additionally, elderly adults with higher education have a faster decline of physical function in the overall performance measure (β = −.03, p < .01). Discussion: As the first to examine physical function decline among U.S. Chinese older adults, our study finds older age and higher education are two factors associated with a faster rate of physical function decline. In future research, long-term follow up and multiple waves of data are needed to investigate risk or resilience factors for disability or recovering from disability.