(HealthDay News) — Functional decline and physical disability may increase the subsequent risk of diabetes in older adults, according to research published online February 18 in Diabetes Care.

Barbara H. Bardenheier, PhD, MPH, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues conducted an observational study of 22,878 adults aged ≤51 years who did not have diabetes at baseline. Disability status was assessed at baseline, and at follow-up, participants reported on disability status and diagnosis of diabetes by a doctor.

The researchers found that 41.2% of participants reported some level of mobility disability at baseline. At an average of 8.7 years of follow-up, an additional 35.7% of participants developed mobility disability and 15.5% developed diabetes. A statistically significant dose-response relationship was found between level of mobility disability, prevalent or incident, and risk of diabetes. According to level of mobility disability (mild, moderate, or severe), the increased risk of diabetes in the main study group ranged from 28–63%. 

“Those with severe disability prior to the baseline or during the study were at 63.0% higher risk of reporting a diabetes diagnosis than those with no disability,” the authors write.

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