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Association between lung function and disability in African–Americans
  1. R J Thorpe, Jr1,2,
  2. S L Szanton3,4,
  3. K Whitfield5,6
  1. 1
    Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  2. 2
    Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  3. 3
    Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University
  4. 4
    Center on Aging and Health, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
  5. 5
    Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University
  6. 6
    Center on Biobehavioral and Social Aspects of Health Disparities
  1. Dr R J Thorpe, Jr, 624 N. Broadway, Ste 441, Baltimore, MD 21205; rthorpe{at}


Background: Impaired lung function is independently associated with higher rates of disability; however, few studies have examined the extent to which this relationship varies by sex. Because men are less likely to have disability, it is expected that the relationship between lung function and disability will be greater among women.

Methods: Logistic regression models were specified to examine the relationship between lung function and disability in 689 African–American men and women participating in the Carolina African American Twin Study of Aging. Disability was defined as difficulty in performing at least one of seven basic activities of daily living. Impaired lung function was defined as per cent of predicted peak expiratory flow (PEF) <80.

Results: Accounting for demographic and health-related characteristics, women who had impaired lung function had a higher odds (OR 1.77; 95% CI 1.02 to 3.06) of being disabled than those with normal lung function. Impaired lung function was unrelated to disability in men.

Conclusion: Lung function appears to vary by sex in this sample of African–Americans. Furthermore, among women, lung function should be considered as an important indicator of health. Every effort should be made to improve lung function in African–Americans, but interventions and health promoting strategies may need to be sex specific.

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • Funding: The CAATSA was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (1R01-AG13662-01A2) to the last author. Research conducted by the first author was supported by a grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities (P60MD000214-01).

  • Ethics approval: The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Pennsylvania State University.