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Life course partnership history and objectively measured physical functional ability in Danish middle-aged adults


Background Partnership break-up and living alone is associated with several negative health-related outcomes. Little is known about the association with physical functional ability in a life course perspective. The aim of this study is to investigate (1) the association between number of partnership break-ups and years living alone across 26 years of adult life respectively and objectively measured physical capability in midlife, (2) how the joint exposure of accumulated break-ups or years living alone respectively, and education relates to physical capability in midlife and (3) potential gender differences.

Methods Longitudinal study of 5001 Danes aged 48–62. Accumulated number of partnership break-ups and years living alone were retrieved from national registers. Handgrip strength (HGS) and number of chair rises (CR) were recorded as outcomes in multivariate linear regression analyses adjusted for sociodemographic factors, early major life events and personality.

Results Increasing number of years living alone was associated with poorer HGS and fewer CR. Concomitant exposure to short educational level and break-ups or long duration of time living alone respectively was associated with poorer physical capability compared with the groups with long educational level and no break-ups or few years lived alone.

Conclusion Accumulated number of years living alone but not break-ups was associated with poorer physical functional ability. Joint exposure to a high number of years lived alone or break-ups respectively and having a short education was associated with the lowest levels of functional ability, which points towards an important target group for interventions. No gender differences were suggested.


Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available to researchers after application to the steering group of CAMB.

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