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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Women's Health 1/2017

Typical patterns of modifiable health risk factors (MHRFs) in elderly women in Germany: results from the cross-sectional German Health Update (GEDA) study, 2009 and 2010

BMC Women's Health > Ausgabe 1/2017
Franziska Jentsch, Jennifer Allen, Judith Fuchs, Elena von der Lippe



Modifiable health risk factors (MHRFs) significantly affect morbidity and mortality rates and frequently occur in specific combinations or risk clusters. Using five MHRFs (smoking, high-risk alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, low intake of fruits and vegetables, and obesity) this study investigates the extent to which risk clusters are observed in a representative sample of women aged 65 and older in Germany. Additionally, the structural composition of the clusters is systematically compared with data and findings from other countries.


A pooled data set of Germany’s representative cross-sectional surveys GEDA09 and GEDA10 was used. The cohort comprised 4,617 women aged 65 and older. Specific risk clusters based on five MHRFs are identified, using hierarchical cluster analysis. The MHRFs were defined as current smoking (daily or occasionally), risk alcohol consumption (according to the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, a sum score of 4 or more points), physical inactivity (less active than 5 days per week for at least 30 min and lack of sports-related activity in the last three months), low intake of fruits and vegetables (less than one serving of fruits and one of vegetables per day), and obesity (a body mass index equal to or greater than 30). A total of 4,292 cases with full information on these factors are included in the cluster analysis. Extended analyses were also performed to include the number of chronic diseases by age and socioeconomic status of group members.


A total of seven risk clusters were identified. In a comparison with data from international studies, the seven risk clusters were found to be stable with a high degree of structural equivalency.


Evidence of the stability of risk clusters across various study populations provides a useful starting point for long-term targeted health interventions. The structural clusters provide information through which various MHRFs can be evaluated simultaneously.
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