Introduction The speed of demographic ageing in low and middle income countries has been unprecedented in comparison with Western European and North American countries. However, few studies have examined whether health conditions of the elderly has changed over time in middle and low income countries. We used data from a national health survey to examine 10-year trend (1998–2008) in health conditions of Brazilian elderly.
Methods A nationally representative sample of 105 254 individuals aged ≥60 years participated.
Results The mean age was 69 years and 56% were women. There was a gradual increase on the prevalence of good or excellent self-rated health (39.3%, 43.5% and 45.0% in 1998, 2003 and 2008, respectively) and a decrease in self-reported arthritis, heart disease, and depression. The prevalence of self-reported hypertension (43.9%, 48.8%, and 53.3%, respectively) and diabetes (10.3%, 13.0% and 16.1% respectively) increased gradually. The prevalence of inability to perform activities of daily living (eating, bathing or using the toilet) remained stable (6.5%, 6.4% and 6.9%, respectively). The achievement of three or more doctor visits increased by 28% from 1998 to 2003, and 45% from 1998 to 2008. Hospitalisations (any) decreased in the corresponding period (8% and 12% respectively). The above mentioned trends remained after adjustments for age and sex.
Conclusion The results showed improvements in some health dimensions of the elderly, but not in all. Changes in the use of health services occurred as expected with the expansion of primary healthcare activities in Brazil.