Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle (JCSM) - Abstract

Prevalence and incidence of sarcopenia in the very old: findings from the Newcastle 85+ Study

Richard Matthew Dodds, Antoneta Granic, Karen Davies, Thomas B. L. Kirkwood, Carol Jagger, Avan Aihie Sayer


Recognition that an older person has sarcopenia is important because this condition is linked to a range of adverse outcomes. Sarcopenia becomes increasingly common with age, and yet there are few data concerning its descriptive epidemiology in the very old (aged 85 years and above). Our aims were to describe risk factors for sarcopenia and estimate its prevalence and incidence in a British sample of the very old.


We used data from two waves (2006/07 and 2009/10) of the Newcastle 85+ Study, a cohort born in 1921 and registered with a Newcastle/North Tyneside general practice. We assessed sarcopenia status using the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People (EWGSOP) definition. Grip strength was measured using a Takei digital dynamometer (Takei Scientific Instruments Ltd., Niigata, Japan), gait speed was calculated from the Timed Up and Go test, and lean mass was estimated using a Tanita-305 body fat analyzer. We used logistic regression to examine associations between risk factors for prevalent sarcopenia at baseline and incident sarcopenia at follow-up.


European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People sarcopenia was present in 21% of participants at baseline [149/719 participants, mean age 85.5 (0.4) years]. Many participants had either slow gait speed or weak grip strength (74.3%), and hence measurement of muscle mass was frequently indicated by the EWGSOP definition. Incidence data were available for 302 participants, and the incident rate was 3.7 cases per 100 person years at risk. Low Standardized Mini-Mental State Examination, lower occupational social class, and shorter duration of education were associated with sarcopenia at baseline, while low muscle mass was associated with incident sarcopenia. Low body mass index (BMI) was a risk factor for both in a graded fashion, with each unit decrease associated with increased odds of prevalent [odds ratio (OR) 1.29, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.21, 1.37] and incident (OR 1.20, 95% CI: 1.08, 1.33) sarcopenia.


To our knowledge, this is the first study to describe prevalence and incidence of EWGSOP sarcopenia in the very old. Low BMI was a risk factor for both current and future sarcopenia; indeed, there was some evidence that low BMI may be a reasonable proxy for low lean mass. Overall, the high prevalence of sarcopenia among the very old suggests that this group should be a focus for future research.

Dodds, R. M., Granic, A., Davies, K., Kirkwood, T. B. L., Jagger, C., and Sayer, A. A. (2016) Prevalence and incidence of sarcopenia in the very old: findings from the Newcastle 85+ Study. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, 8; 229–237. doi: 10.1002/jcsm.12157.