The Journals of Gerontology: Series b

Neda Agahi, Stefan Fors, Johan Fritzell and Benjamin A. Shaw*



Objectives: To test whether older adults from high and low educational groups are differentially vulnerable to the impact of smoking and physical inactivity on the progression of mobility impairment during old age.

Methods: A nationally representative sample of older Swedish adults (n = 1,311), aged 57–76 years at baseline (1991), were followed for up to 23 years (2014). Multilevel regression was used to estimate individual trajectories of mobility impairment over the study period and to test for differences in the progression of mobility impairment on the basis of smoking status, physical activity status, and level of education.

Results: Compared to nonsmokers, heavy smokers had higher levels and steeper increases in mobility impairment with advancing age. However, there were only small and statistically nonsignificant differences in the impact of heavy smoking on mobility impairment in high versus low education groups. A similar pattern of results was found for physical inactivity.

Discussion: Differential vulnerability to unhealthy behaviors may vary across populations, age, time-periods, and health outcomes. In this study of older adults in Sweden, low and high education groups did not differ significantly in their associations between heavy smoking or physical inactivity, and the progression of mobility impairment.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates and Staff