Postural tremor is age-related and has been linked to physiological decline, but having this condition does not predict whether seniors will develop disabilities in their activities of daily living (ADL), a new study has found.

As opposed to resting tremor, postural tremor occurs when a person maintains a position against gravity, such as holding one’s arms out. It is often seen in Parkinson’s disease.

Investigators in China used data from a population-based study of adults aged 55 years and older to find whether this condition precedes a decline in ADL capabilities. The existence of postural tremor was assessed at baseline using a tremor screening, followed by a clinical exam of positive cases.

More than 5,800 participants received an eight-item questionnaire that inquired about mobility and self-care capabilities within ADL domains. Investigators followed outcomes for up to four years in those who had no ADL disabilities at baseline.

The results initially showed that participants with postural tremor were at greater risk of incident ADL disability, particularly in the ADL mobility domain, the researchers reported. But after adjusting for factors such as age and chronic illness, the findings became more nuanced.

Mobility disabilities

Postural tremor was not significantly associated with the development of ADL disability overall, and was only marginally associated with new mobility disabilities. The latter grew significantly among men, but not women who had postural tremor, reported Piu Chan, MD, PhD, of the Xuanwu Hospital of Capital Medical University in Beijing.

The association between tremor and ADL disability “is largely due to older age and a higher prevalence of chronic comorbidities in older people with postural tremor,” Chan and colleagues wrote. But overall, “postural tremor is not a strong independent predictor of ADL disability in older people,” they concluded.

Full findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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