The shape of a person's spinal column may predict their risk for disability in old age, and thus their need for home assistance, new research has found.
A team of researchers in Japan discovered that the trunk angle of inclination -- or "the angle between the true vertical and a straight line from the first thoracic vertebra to the first sacral vertebra" -- is linked to whether or not one will require help with bathing, feeding, dressing, going to the bathroom and other activities of daily living (ADL), according to a press release.
The authors, who studied data on 804 people aged 65 and older, said that while spinal posture changes with age, good posture is key to helping one maintain an independent life.
Researchers used a spinal mouse -- a computer-assisted noninvasive device -- to measure the subjects' spinal posture.
Of the four measurements taken, only trunk angle of inclination was linked with future dependence in ADL -- defined by the researchers as either admission to a nursing home or a need for home assistance after a 4.5 year follow-up period. At that time, nearly 16 percent became dependent.
The subjects with the greatest angle of spinal inclination were 3.47 times more likely to become dependent in ADL than those with the least spinal inclination.
The study has been published in Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.
Also linked to the likelihood that one will wind up in a nursing home or assisted living facility is a good night's sleep. According to a study in 2012, fragmented sleep is associated with a greater risk of being placed in a nursing home or in a personal care home.