Background: There are limited data on the prevalence and causes of disability in the elderly general population in Japan. Methods: In a population-based cross-sectional study of 1550 Japanese aged 65 years or older, we examined the prevalence of functional disability (defined as a Barthel Index score of ≤95) and its causes. Results: A total of 311 of the participants had a disability (prevalence 20.1%). The prevalence of disability increased with age and doubled with every 5-year increment in age. Prevalence was higher in women than in men, especially among those aged 85 years or older. With respect to the cause of functional disability, dementia accounted for 23.5%, stroke for 24.7%, orthopedic disease for 12.9%, and other disease for 38.9% of cases in men; in women, the respective values were 35.8%, 9.3%, 31.0%, and 23.9%. Regarding age, dementia was the most frequent cause of disability in subjects aged 75 years or older, whereas stroke was most common in subjects aged 65 to 74 years. Approximately two-thirds of cases of total dependence were attributed to dementia in both sexes, whereas the main cause of slight or moderate/severe dependence was stroke in men and orthopedic disease in women. Among participants with total dependence, 94.8% resided in a hospital or health care facility. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that functional disability is common among Japanese elderly adults and that its major cause is stroke in men and dementia in women.
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