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Aging and health – physical performance, sedentary behavior and injurious falls

This research group is a collaboration between the Division of Physiotherapy and the Aging Research Center (ARC) at Karolinska Institutet.

Aging and health, Welmer group

Research focus

Focus is on physical performance, sedentary behavior and injurious falls in older adults. Our goals are to increase knowledge regarding:

  1. The complex interactions between biological, demographic, and social factors, chronic diseases, and lifestyle that may explain the development of poor health in old age, with a special focus on physical disability and injurious falls.
  2. To what extent the increased life expectancy in the last century has resulted in healthy years or years lived in poor health and disability.
  3. How and which patterns of sedentary behavior are linked to poor health among older adults.

Our research combines large population-based studies, register data and clinical studies. In the population-based studies, we use objective instruments to assess physical activity and sedentary behavior, which permits a more valid and detailed examination than previously possible in population-based studies of older adults.

Research projects

  • A multifactorial approach to injurious falls in older adults—identifying levels of risk, sex differences, and functional trajectories
  • Temporal trends in health and functioning among older adults
  • Injurious falls in older adults: identifying people who may be targets for primary interventions—further development of the First-time Injurious Falls (FIF)-tool
  • Harmful sitting in old age—too much or too long? Health effects of sedentary behavior

Group leader

Group members

Stina Ek, PhD 

Nathalie Frisendahl, PhD student

Ing-Mari Dohrn, Postdoc


We have ongoing collaboration with researchers at the following universities:

University of Padova, Italy

VU University Center, the Netherlands

Erasmus MC Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Lund University

Blekinge Tekniska Högskola (BTH)

EU project: Using Multidimensional Prognostic Indices (MPI) to improve the cost-effectiveness of interventions in multimorbid frail older persons

Financial support

Stockholm County Council (ALF)

The Swedish Research Council

Österman Foundation

Strategic Research Area Health Care Science (SFO-V)

Doctoral School in Health Care Sciences (FiV)

Selected scientific publications

Temporal trends in impairments of physical function among older adults during 2001-16 in Sweden: towards a healthier ageing.
Santoni G, Angleman SB, Ek S, Heiland EG, Lagergren M, Fratiglioni L, et al
Age Ageing 2018 09;47(5):698-704

Trajectories of functional decline in older adults with neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular multimorbidity: A Swedish cohort study.
Vetrano DL, Rizzuto D, Calderón-Larrañaga A, Onder G, Welmer AK, Bernabei R, et al
PLoS Med. 2018 03;15(3):e1002503

Cardiovascular Risk Burden and Future Risk of Walking Speed Limitation in Older Adults.
Heiland EG, Qiu C, Wang R, Santoni G, Liang Y, Fratiglioni L, et al
J Am Geriatr Soc 2017 Nov;65(11):2418-2424

Risk Profiles for Injurious Falls in People Over 60: A Population-Based Cohort Study.
Ek S, Rizzuto D, Fratiglioni L, Johnell K, Xu W, Welmer AK
J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 2018 01;73(2):233-239

Cognitive and Physical Function in Relation to the Risk of Injurious Falls in Older Adults: A Population-Based Study.
Welmer AK, Rizzuto D, Laukka EJ, Johnell K, Fratiglioni L
J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 2017 May;72(5):669-675

Sex Differences in the Association Between Pain and Injurious Falls in Older Adults: A Population-Based Longitudinal Study.
Welmer AK, Rizzuto D, Calderón-Larrañaga A, Johnell K
Am. J. Epidemiol. 2017 Nov;186(9):1049-1056

Assessing and Measuring Chronic Multimorbidity in the Older Population: A Proposal for Its Operationalization.
Calderón-Larrañaga A, Vetrano DL, Onder G, Gimeno-Feliu LA, Coscollar-Santaliestra C, Carfí A, et al
J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 2017 Oct;72(10):1417-1423

Association of mobility limitations with incident disability among older adults: a population-based study.
Heiland EG, Welmer AK, Wang R, Santoni G, Angleman S, Fratiglioni L, et al
Age Ageing 2016 11;45(6):812-819

Multidimensional Prognostic Index in Association with Future Mortality and Number of Hospital Days in a Population-Based Sample of Older Adults: Results of the EU Funded MPI_AGE Project.
Angleman SB, Santoni G, Pilotto A, Fratiglioni L, Welmer AK,
PLoS ONE 2015 ;10(7):e0133789

Walking speed, processing speed, and dementia: a population-based longitudinal study.
Welmer AK, Rizzuto D, Qiu C, Caracciolo B, Laukka EJ
J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 2014 Dec;69(12):1503-10