Examining Levels of Dependency in Older Adults

caregiver feeding older man
caregiver feeding older man
Researchers observed significant increases in the number of years participants lived with low levels of dependency.

Adults aged 65 years and older experience varying levels of dependency that continue to evolve with rising life expectancy, according to a study published in the Lancet.

In an effort to estimate the number of years individuals aged ≥65 years live in varying dependency states, investigators compared the 2 Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS I and CFAS II). The studies included patient interviews at baseline in the community as well as in assisted living facilities. Investigators collected cognitive status and patients’ self-reported ability to perform tasks of daily living.

During the duration of the studies, researchers observed significant increases in the number of years participants lived with low levels of dependency (1.7 years [95% CI, 1.0-2.4 years] for men vs 2.4 years [95% CI, 1.8-3.1 years] for women). In addition, there were noticeable increases in high dependency during the research period (0.9 years [95% CI, 0.2-1.7 years] for men and 1.3 years [95% CI, 0.5-2.1 years] for women).

Men experienced a greater proportion of extra life years spent being independent compared with women (36.3% vs 4.8%, respectively). Conversely, women experienced numerically greater years in low dependency compared with men (58.0% vs 36.3%, respectively).

The self-reporting nature of the activities that defined dependency represented a substantial limitation of this study. In addition, despite adjusting for nonresponse biases, the rate of interview responses were not consistent across the CFAS I and CFAS II trials.

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“Consensus on the items to form the measure in a global context will be important to provide a policy-relevant outcome for public health interventions and one that can be used by individuals and countries planning future care costs,” concluded the investigators.


Kingston A, Wohland P, Wittenberg R, et al. Is late-life dependency increasing or not? A comparison of the Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS) [published online August 14, 2017]. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31575-31581