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Journal Article

Birth-cohort trends in older-age functional disability and their relationship with socio-economic status: evidence from a pooling of repeated cross-sectional population-based studies for the UK


Publication date

Jul 2015


We examine birth-cohort trends behind recent changes
in the prevalence of functional disability in the older population
living in private households in the United Kingdom (UK). By using three
different socio-economic indicators available in the nationally
representative cross-sectional data on older individuals interviewed
between 2002 and 2012 in the Family Resource Survey (FRS) (96,733
respondents), we investigate the extent to which the overall trends have
been more favourable among more advantaged than disadvantaged
socioeconomic groups.Compared to the cohort of
people born in 1924, successive cohorts of older men have lower odds of
having at least one functional difficulty (FD), whereas no significant
trend was found for women. Among people with at least one FD, however,
the number of disabilities increases for each successive cohort of older
women (incidence rate ratio 1.027, 95% confidence interval 1.023 to
1.031, P<0.001) and men (incidence rate ratio 1.028, 95% confidence
interval 1.024 to 1.033, P<0.001). By allowing interactions between
birth cohort and SES indicators, a significant increasing cohort trend
in the number of reported FDs was found among older men and women at
lower SES, whereas an almost stable pattern was observed at high SES.
Our results suggest that the overall slightly increasing birth-cohort
trend in functional difficulties observed among current cohorts of older
people in the UK hides underlying increases among low SES individuals
and a relative small reduction among high SES individuals. Further
studies are needed to understand the causes of such trends and to
propose appropriate interventions. However, if the SES differentials in
trends in FDs observed in the past continue, this could have important
implications for the future costs of the public system of care and
support for people with care needs.

Published in

Social Science and Medicine

Volume and page numbers

136-137 , 1 -9





Disability, Older People, and Health


Open Acccess article; Open Access funded by Economic and Social Research Council; Under a Creative Commons license


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