No study has comprehensively examined the independent and combined effects of sensory impairment, physical activity and balance on mortality risk, which was this study’s purpose.
Data from the population-based 2003–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) was used, with follow-up through 2011. Physical activity was assessed via accelerometry. Balance was assessed via the Romberg test. Peripheral neuropathy was assessed objectively using a standard monofilament. Visual impairment was objectively assessed using an autorefractor. Hearing impairment was assessed via self-report. A 5-level index variable (higher score is worse) was calculated based on the participant’s degree of sensory impairment, dysfunctional balance and physical inactivity.
Among the 1658 participants (age 40–85 yrs), 228 died during the median follow-up period of 92 months. Hearing (Hazard Ratio [HR] = 1.18; P = .40), vision (HR = 1.17; P = .58) and peripheral neuropathy (HR = 1.06; P = .71) were not independently associated with all-cause mortality, but physical activity (HR = 0.97; P = .01) and functional balance (HR = 0.59; P = .03) were. Compared with those with an index score of 0, the HR (95% CI) for those with an index score of 1 to 3, respectively, were 1.20 (0.46–3.13), 2.63 (1.08–6.40) and 2.88 (1.36–6.06).
Physical activity and functional balance are independent contributors to survival.
Loprinzi and Crush are with the Dept of Health, Exercise Science, and Recreation Management, University of Mississippi, University, MS.