Objectives To analyse the relationships between chronic conditions, body functions, activity limitations and participation restrictions in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) framework.
Design A cross-sectional study.
Setting 2 geographical areas in the Autonomous Region of Aragon, Spain, namely, a rural area, Cinco Villas, and an urban area in the city of Zaragoza.
Participants 864 individuals selected by simple random sampling from the register of Social Security card holders, aged 50 years and over, positive to disability screening.
Main outcome measures ICF Checklist—body function domains, WHO Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0, 36-item (WHODAS-36)) global scores and medical diagnoses (chronic conditions) from primary care records.
Results Mild disability (WHODAS-36 level 5–24%) was present in 51.5% of the sample. In the adjusted ordinal regression model with WHODAS-36 as the dependent variable, disability was substantially associated with moderate-to-complete impairment in the following functions: mental, OR 212.8 (95% CI 72 to 628.9); neuromusculoskeletal, OR 44.8 (24.2 to 82.8); and sensory and pain, OR 6.3 (3.5 to 11.2). In the relationship between health conditions and body function impairments, the strongest links were seen for: dementia with mental functions, OR 50.6 (25.1 to 102.1); cerebrovascular disease with neuromusculoskeletal function, OR 5.8 (3.5 to 9.7); and chronic renal failure with sensory function and pain, OR 3.0 (1.49 to 6.4). Dementia, OR 8.1 (4.4 to 14.7) and cerebrovascular disease, OR 4.1 (2.7 to 6.4) were associated with WHODAS-36 scores.
Conclusions Body functions are heterogeneously linked to limitations in activities and restrictions on participation, with the highest impact being due to mental and musculoskeletal functions. This may be relevant for disability assessment and intervention design, particularly if defined on a body function basis. Control of specific health conditions, such as dementia and cerebrovascular disease, appears to be paramount in reducing disability among persons aged 50 years and over.
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