STUDY OBJECTIVES: (1) To identify behavioural and biological correlates of poor physical functioning and (2) to determine whether such associations are independent of disease. DESIGN: Potential correlates were obtained from questionnaires and screening visits at baseline and five year follow up. Physical functioning was measured at follow up using the 10 item scale from the short-form 36 health survey. SETTING: London offices at baseline. PARTICIPANTS: 10,308 civil servants (6895 men and 3413 women), with a median age (range) of 49 years (39-63) at follow up. MAIN RESULTS: Multiple logistic regression showed that cigarette smoking, physical activity, body mass index (BMI), triglycerides, fibrinogen, and insulin were independently associated with poor physical functioning for men. For women, physical activity, eating habits, body mass index, fibrinogen, and insulin were independently associated with poor physical functioning. For example, among men, current smokers who had smoked more than 20 pack years were 1.89 (95% CI 1.35 to 2.67) times as likely to have poor physical functioning as never smokers. Men with BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more were 1.71 (95% CI 1.13 to 2.59) times as likely to have poor physical functioning as those with BMI < 20 kg/m2. The corresponding odds ratio for women was 2.66 (95% CI 1.80 to 3.93). With the exceptions of fibrinogen and insulin, associations remained on exclusion of subjects with physical disease. CONCLUSIONS: Risk factors established for physical diseases are associated with poor physical functioning in a population of working age. These associations may be independent of current disease.
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