Development and validation of a functional morbidity index to predict mortality in community-dwelling elders

Elise C. Carey, Louise C. Walter, Karla Lindquist, Kenneth E. Covinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Functional measures have a great appeal for prognostic instruments because they are associated with mortality, they represent the end-impact of disease on the patient, and information about them can be obtained directly from the patient. However, there are no prognostic indices that have been developed for community-dwelling elders based primarily on functional measures. Our objective in this study was to develop and validate a prognostic index for 2-year mortality in community-dwelling elders, based on self-reported functional status, age, and gender. DESIGN: Population-based cohort study from 1993 to 1995. SETTING: Community-dwelling elders within the United States. PARTICIPANTS: Subjects, age ≥70 (N = 7,393), from the Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old study. We developed the index in 4,516 participants (mean age 78, 84% white, 61% female), and validated it in 2,877 different participants (mean age 78, 73% white, 61% female). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Prediction of 2-year mortality using risk factors such as activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, additional measures of physical function, age, and gender. RESULTS: Overall mortality was 10% in the development cohort and 12% in the validation cohort. In the development cohort, 6 independent predictors of mortality were identified and weighted, using logistic regression models, to create a point scale: male gender, 2 points; age (76 to 80, 1 point; >80, 2 points); dependence in bathing, 1 point; dependence in shopping, 2 points; difficulty walking several blocks, 2 points; and difficulty pulling or pushing heavy objects, 1 point. We calculated risk scores for each patient by adding the points of each independent risk factor present. In the development cohort, 2-year mortality was 3% in the lowest risk group (0 to 2 points), 11% in the middle risk group (3 to 6 points), and 34% in the highest risk group (>7 points). In the validation cohort, 2-year mortality was 5% in the lowest risk group, 12% in the middle risk group, and 36% in the highest risk group. The c-statistics for the point system were 0.76 and 0.74 in the development and validation cohorts, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: This prognostic index, which relies solely on self-reported functional status, age, and gender, provides a simple and accurate method of stratifying community-dwelling elders into groups at varying risk of mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1027-1033
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Activities of daily living
  • Mortality
  • Prognosis
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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