OBJECTIVES: To describe differences in morbidity and functional status according to living area.
DESIGN: Community-based survey.
SETTING: A community-based prospective cohort, the Kungsholmen-Nordanstig Project.
PARTICIPANTS: Adults aged 75 and older living in an urban area of central Stockholm (n=1,222) and in the rural community of Nordanstig in northern Sweden (n=919).
MEASUREMENTS: Physicians clinically examined all participants using the same standardized protocols in both living areas; trained nurses directly assessed disability.
RESULTS: Cardiovascular disease was the most common disorder in both living areas (39.9% in the urban area and 45.2% in the rural area). There were great area differences in the prevalence of stroke (7.4% and 14.0%), diabetes mellitus 6.3% and 16.1%), and Parkinson's disease (1.0% and 3.7%). It was more common to have two or more diseases than no diseases in the rural area than in the urban area (odds ratio=1.9, 95% confidence interval=1.4–2.4). Significant living area differences (urban vs rural) in population attributable risk (PAR) was found for disability due to stroke (5.6 vs 32.2), diabetes mellitus (1.2 vs 6.1), fractures (1.4 vs 10.7), and hearing impairment (8.7 vs 22.0).
CONCLUSION: Differences were found in disability, morbidity, and disease patterns according to living area. The rural elderly population was more disabled and had more diseases than the urban elderly population, despite being slightly younger than the urban cohort. There were significant area differences in the PAR of how specific chronic conditions influenced the risk of disability.