Jun 25, 2023
Researchers identify lifestyle factors that predict nursing home needs later in life
The kind of lifestyle habits that predispose seniors to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia, are also likely to land them in nursing homes as they age, a new study finds. Researchers in
The kind of lifestyle habits that predispose seniors to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia, are also likely to land them in nursing homes as they age, a new study finds.
Researchers in Australia used five lifestyle risk factors — smoking, physical inactivity, sitting time, sleep duration and diet quality — to determine how they might affect the need for nursing home care. Four of the five risk factors were “independently associated with nursing home admission, which was highest among current smokers,” the authors found. Diet was the only factor that was not an independent factor.
“Little is known on how lifestyle factors, individually or in combination, may relate to nursing home admission, an outcome of great societal and economic importance with increased population ageing,” the authors wrote.
The researchers grouped the 127,000 participants into three categories of high- , medium- , and low-risk, depending on their initial responses to a lifestyle questionnaire issued between 2006 and 2009. All participants were over age 60 at that time. The researchers then followed up about a decade later, looking to see who had been admitted to nursing homes or other care facilities and what lifestyle factors were still prevalent.
Of the full sample, 18% were admitted to nursing homes with those in the youngest age cohort (60-64 years old at the beginning of the study) with a severe physical impairment and in the high-risk lifestyle group had the greatest risk of being admitted to a nursing home. Study participants who engaged in a healthy lifestyle with few bad habits such as smoking and sitting for long periods were 30% less likely to require admission to a nursing home. Those with multiple risk factors and led the least healthy lives in the beginning of the study period were 43% more likely to end up in a nursing home.
“These findings highlight that lifestyle factors are important in relatively younger age group,” the authors wrote. “It also highlights that even people with severe physical impairment can benefit from adherence to a healthy lifestyle. Most older people have a clearly stated preference for remaining in their home, so interventions to postpone nursing home admission (or avoid it completely) would contribute to a higher quality of life, a more dignified ageing and reduce the need for costly provision of care.”
The study was published in the journal Epidemiology & Community Health and conducted by researchers associated with the University of Sydney.