Research Article

Age, pattern of consultation, and functional disability in elderly patients in one general practice.

BMJ 1990; 301 doi: (Published 01 September 1990) Cite this as: BMJ 1990;301:424
  1. R G Hall,
  2. D M Channing
  1. Norton Medical Centre, Stockton on Tees, Cleveland.


    OBJECTIVE--To examine how functional disability varies with sex, age, and other variables in patients aged 75 and over living in the community and to ascertain whether a statistical model derived from the variables in this population usefully predicted functional disability in another of similar age. DESIGN--Retrospective study of data collected by interview and by examination of medical records. SETTING--An urban general practice with five partners and a list of 15,000 patients, very few of whom belonged to ethnic minorities. PATIENTS--775 Patients (252 men, 523 women) aged 75 and over living in the community between September 1985 and August 1986; 13 other patients considered to be unsuitable and 14 who declined an interview were excluded. Also 94 patients who became 75 or joined the practice after August 1986. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE--The proportions of fit, partially disabled, and severely disabled (housebound) patients. RESULTS--90 Men (35.7%) and 128 women (24.5%) were fit, and 27 men (10.7%) and 116 women (22.2%) were housebound; in all age groups women were significantly more likely to be disabled than men. A significant trend towards greater disability was shown with increasing age and, more noticeably, with pattern of consultation when patients were divided into three categories based on the number of times they had attended the surgery and been visited at home over about two years. Statistical models gave the forecast percentage of fit and severely disabled patients for each sex, age group, and pattern of consultation, and a simple scheme was derived to identify from information wholly contained in medical records most of those patients most prone to severe disability. The scheme was verified applying it to a population of 94 elderly patients in 1988-9. CONCLUSION--Sex, age, and pattern of consultation together provide a quick indication of elderly patients' tendency to severe disability, which can help in screening and in day to day consultations.