Relationship between physical performance and self-perceived physical function

M E Cress, K B Schechtman, C D Mulrow, M A Fiatarone, M B Gerety, D M Buchner
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 1995, 43 (2): 93-101

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to compare two methods of measuring physical function in subjects with a broad range of abilities and to evaluate the effects of cognitive, social, educational, and age factors on the relationship between the two methods.

DESIGN: Multiple regression analysis was used to compare self-perceived (dependent variables) with performance measures (independent variables). Covariates included age, gender, Mini-Mental State Exam score, education, living status, and depression score.

SETTING: Five community-dwelling and two nursing home sites.

PARTICIPANTS: 417 community-dwelling subjects and 200 nursing home residents aged 62-98 years.

MEASUREMENTS: Self-perceived physical function was assessed with the physical dimension summary score of the Sickness Impact Profile, which comprises three subscales: ambulation, mobility, and body care and movement. Physical performance was evaluated by self-selected gait speed, chair-stand time, maximal grip strength, and a balance score.

RESULTS: Nursing home residents and community-dwellers were significantly different (P < .0001) in all variables except age and gender. Self-perceived and performance-based measures were moderately correlated, with a range from r = -.194 to r = -.625 (P < .05). Gait speed was the strongest independent predictor of self-perceived physical function in both groups. Symptoms of depression were also an independent predictor of self-perceived function in nursing home residents; subjects who had such symptoms report more self-perceived dysfunction than would be predicted based on performance tests.

CONCLUSIONS: Self-selected gait speed is a global indicator of self-perceived physical function over a broad range of abilities. External determinants (depressive symptoms, cognitive function, marital status, etc.) affect self-perceived function in both groups, but gait speed is the greatest single predictor of self-perceived function. In nursing home residents depressive symptomatology is related to self-perceived.

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