Patterns of Disability Related to Diabetes Mellitus in Older Women

Siobhan C. Maty, Linda P. Fried, Stefano Volpato, Jeff Williamson, Frederick Louis Brancati, Caroline S. Blaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Purpose. To identify pattern(s) of disability related to diabetes in older women and to determine the extent to which disability is mediated by selected diabetes complications. Methods. Cross-sectional analysis of data from a population-based study composed of a representative sample of 3570 noninstitutionalized women aged 65 years and older living in the Baltimore metropolitan area who agreed to be screened for the Women's Health and Aging Study. Results. 483 (13.5%) of the women reported physician-diagnosed diabetes. Compared to women without diabetes, women with diabetes were significantly more likely to report difficulty in 14 of 15 daily tasks, including walking 2-3 blocks, lifting 10 pounds, using the telephone, and bathing (range of odds ratios [OR] 1.5-2.8; all p <.01). After adjustment for age, race, and marital status, women with diabetes were about twice as likely to report difficulty in any one of four functioning groups (mobility, upper extremity, higher functioning tasks, or self-care) (OR 2.2; 95% confidence interval [Cl] 1.8-2.7), and over three times as likely to report difficulty in a group combining higher functioning and self-care tasks (OR 3.2; 95% Cl 2.4-4.1). Adjustment for self-reported heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and visual problems did not attenuate these associations. Conclusions. Diabetes is strongly associated with a wide range of disabilities in older women. This association does not appear to be mediated by prevalent diabetes complications and risks, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, or eye disease. Other complications of diabetes (e.g., neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease) may mediate diabetes-associated disability in older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-153
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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