Open Access Open Badges Research

Onset and persistence of person-perceived participation restriction in older adults: a 3-year follow-up study in the general population

Ross Wilkie*, Elaine Thomas, Sara Mottram, George Peat and Peter Croft

Author Affiliations

Arthritis Research Campaign National Primary Care Centre, Primary Care Sciences, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2008, 6:92  doi:10.1186/1477-7525-6-92

Published: 5 November 2008



Participation restriction is defined as "problems an individual may experience in involvement in life situations" and refers to the personal and societal consequences of health conditions. There is a growing interest in participation restriction because (i) problems with work or looking after others may be more concerning to individuals than the signs and symptoms of health conditions and (ii) even when poor health persists, participation may still be maintained. The natural history of participation restriction in the general population is unknown and the aim of this report is to describe change in status of person-perceived participation restriction over three years in community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and over.


Prospective cohort study (baseline and 3-year follow-up) using postal questionnaires mailed to a population-based sample of older adults. Responders were included in this study if they completed all items of the Keele Assessment of Participation at baseline (n = 6965). Estimates of onset and persistence of person-perceived participation restriction at 3-year follow-up were calculated for any and for each aspect of life in the sample as a whole, and then by age and gender using attrition re-weighted logistic regression to take account of sample attrition.


In the whole sample of 6965 persons, overall participation status at three years was unchanged in 69%, and changed in 31%. Of 3431 persons with no restriction at baseline, it is estimated that 29.8% (95% confidence interval: 27.6%, 32.0%) would report restriction in at least one aspect of life at 3-year follow-up. Of 3534 persons who had baseline restriction, it is estimated that 68.8% (66.2%, 71.3%) would report continuing restriction in at least one aspect of life after 3 years. Onset and persistence both increased with age, and were most frequently recorded for restricted mobility outside the home.


Although most older persons do not change their overall participation status during a three-year period, change does occur which implies that population approaches to improving participation can be sought. Both onset and persistence of person-perceived participation restriction are more common the older the age-group.