Background: Although previous studies have explored the effect of chronic conditions on physical disability, little is known about the levels and rates of change in physical disability after a chronic condition diagnosis in middle-aged and older adults in the Asian population. The aim of this study is to ascertain the average levels and rates of change in the development of disability after disease diagnosis, as well as to determine the influences of sociodemographic and health-related correlates in the development of disability. Methods: This is a retrospective cohort study analyzing data of nationally representative participants aged 50 and over with a chronic condition or having developed one during follow-ups based on data from the 1996–2011 Taiwan Longitudinal Study on Aging (TLSA) (n = 5131). Seven chronic conditions were examined. Covariates included age at initial diagnosis, gender, education level, number of comorbidities, and depression status. Physical disability was measured by combining self-reported ADL, IADL, and strength and mobility activities with 17 total possible points, further analyzed with multilevel modeling. Results: The results showed that (1) physical disability was highest for stroke, followed by cancer and diabetes at the time of the initial disease diagnosis. (2) The linear rate of change was highest for stroke, followed by lung disease and heart disease, indicating that these diseases led to higher steady increases in physical disability after the disease diagnosis. (3) The quadratic rate of change was highest in diabetes, followed by cancer and hypertension, indicating that these diseases had led to higher increments of physical disability in later stage disease. After controlling for sociodemographic and comorbidity, depression status accounted for 39.9–73.6% and 37.9–100% of the variances in the physical disability intercept and change over time, respectively. Conclusions: Despite the fact that a comparison across conditions was not statistically tested, an accelerated increase in physical disabilities was found as chronic conditions progressed. While stroke and cancer lead to disability immediately, conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and hypertension give rise to higher increments of physical disability in later stage disease. Mitigating depressive symptoms may be beneficial in terms of preventing disability development in this population.
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