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02-03-2020 | Uitgave 8/2020 Open Access

Quality of Life Research 8/2020

Body composition and changes in health-related quality of life in older age: a 10-year follow-up of the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 8/2020
Tuija M. Mikkola, Hannu Kautiainen, Mikaela B. von Bonsdorff, Minna K. Salonen, Niko Wasenius, Eero Kajantie, Johan G. Eriksson
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Most studies examining the associations between body composition and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in older age have been cross-sectional and analyzed only fat or lean mass. Hence, it is poorly known whether fat and lean mass are independently associated with subsequent changes in HRQoL. We investigated whether baseline lean and fat mass are associated with changes in HRQoL over a 10-year period in older adults.


We studied 1044 men and women from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study (age 57–70 years at baseline). Bioelectrical impedance analysis was used to derive baseline fat mass index (FMI, fat mass/height2) and lean mass index (lean mass/height2), dichotomized at sex-specific medians. HRQoL was assessed using RAND 36-item Health Survey at baseline and follow-up 10 years later.


When controlled for lean mass and adjusted for potential confounders, high baseline FMI was associated with a greater decline in general health (standardized regression coefficient [β] = − 0.13, p = 0.001), physical functioning (β = − 0.11, p = 0.002), role physical (β = − 0.13, p = 0.003), vitality (β = − 0.08, p = 0.027), role emotional (β = − 0.12, p = 0.007), and physical component score (β = − 0.14, p < 0.001). High baseline FMI was also associated with low HRQoL in all physical domains at baseline (β: from − 0.38 to − 0.10). Lean mass was not strongly associated with HRQoL at baseline or change in HRQoL.


In older community-dwelling adults, higher fat mass is, independent of lean mass, associated with lower physical HRQoL and greater decline in HRQoL. Prevention of adiposity may contribute to preservation of a good quality of life in older age.

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