The use of functional performance tests and simple anthropomorphic measures to screen for comorbidity in primary care

Alan Nevill, Michael Duncan, Daphne S.K. Cheung, Anthony S.W. Wong, Rick Yiu Cho Kwan, Claudia K.Y. Lai

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Many older adults are unaware that they have comorbid diseases. Increased adiposity and reduced muscle mass are identified as key contributors to many chronic diseases in older adults. Understanding the role they play in the development of comorbidities in older populations is of prime importance. Objectives: To identify the optimal body shape associated with three common functional performance tests and to determine which anthropometric and functional performance test best explains comorbidity in a sample of older adults in Hong Kong. Methods: A total of 432 older adults participated in this cross-sectional study. Researchers assessed their body height, body mass index, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, handgrip strength (kg), functional reach (cm) and results in the timed-up-and-go (TUG) test (seconds). The Charlson Comorbidity Index was used to assess comorbidity. Results: Allometric modelling indicated that the optimal body shape associated with all functional performance tests would have required the participants to be taller and leaner. The only variable that predicted comorbidity was the TUG test. The inclusion of body size/shape variables did not improve the prediction model. Conclusion: Performance in the TUG test alone was found to be capable of identifying participants at risk of developing comorbidities. The TUG test has potential as a screening tool for the early detection of chronic diseases in older adults. Implications for Practice: Many older people are unaware of their own co-existing illnesses when they consult physicians for a medical condition. TUG can be a quick and useful screening measure to alert nurses in primary care to the need to proceed with more detailed assessments. It is an especially useful screening measure in settings with high patient volumes and fiscal constraints. TUG is low cost and easy to learn and is therefore also relevant for nurses and health workers in low-resource, low-income countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12333
JournalInternational journal of older people nursing
Issue number4
Early online date7 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • allometric
  • body mass
  • comorbidity
  • health screening
  • multiplicative model
  • older people
  • primary care
  • timed-up-and-go
  • waist circumference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology


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