People with intellectual disabilities (ID) have a lower life expectancy than their peers without ID. A contributing factor to the lower life expectancy and early mortality could be sarcopenia: low muscle mass and low muscle function. In the general population, sarcopenia strongly predicts early mortality, but this association is unknown in people with ID. Therefore, this study aims to explore the association between sarcopenia and 5-year mortality in older adults with ID.
In the Healthy Ageing and Intellectual Disabilities (HA-ID) study, the prevalence of sarcopenia was measured at baseline among 884 older adults (≥50 years) with ID. All-cause mortality was measured over a 5-year follow-up period. Univariable and multivariable Cox proportional hazard models were applied to determine the association between sarcopenia (no sarcopenia, pre-sarcopenia, sarcopenia, severe sarcopenia) and early mortality, adjusted for age, sex, level of ID, presence of Down syndrome, and co-morbidity (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes type 2 and metabolic syndrome).
The unadjusted hazard ratio (HR) for sarcopenia was 2.28 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.48–3.42], P < 0.001), and 2.40 (95% CI 1.40–4.10, P = 0.001) for severe sarcopenia. When adjusted for age, sex, level of ID, and Down syndrome, sarcopenia (HR = 1.72, 95% CI 1.08–2.75, P = 0.022) and severe sarcopenia (HR = 1.86, 95% CI 1.07–3.23, P = 0.028) were significantly associated with early mortality. When additionally adjusted for co-morbidity, the adjusted HR decreased to 1.62 (95% CI 1.02–2.59, P = 0.043) and 1.81 (95% CI 1.04–3.15, P = 0.035) for sarcopenia and severe sarcopenia, respectively.
Sarcopenia is an independent risk factor for early mortality in older adults with ID over a 5-year follow-up period. Our results stress the need to delay the incidence and development of sarcopenia in older adults with ID.