BackgroundSlowness of walking is one of the very first signs of aging and is considered a marker for overall health that is strongly associated with mortality risk. In this study, we sought to disentangle the clinical drivers of the association between gait and mortality.MethodsWe included 4,490 participants of the Rotterdam Study who underwent a gait assessment between 2009 and 2015 and were followed-up for mortality until 2018. Gait was assessed with an electronic walkway and summarized into the domains Rhythm, Phases, Variability, Pace, Tandem, Turning, and Base of Support. Cox models adjusted for age, sex, and height were built and consecutively adjusted for six categories of health indicators (lifestyle, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, and neurological). Analyses were repeated in comorbidity-free individuals.ResultsMultiple gait domains were associated with an increased risk of mortality, including Pace (hazard ratio (HR) per SD worse gait, adjusted for other domains: 1.34 [1.19–1.50]), Rhythm (HR: 1.12 [1.02–1.23]) and Phases (HR: 1.12 [1.03–1.21]). Similarly, a 0.1 m/s decrease in gait speed was associated with a 1.21 (1.15–1.27) times higher hazard of mortality (HR fully adjusted: 1.14 [1.08–1.20]). In a comorbidity-free subsample, the HR per 0.1 m/s decrease in gait speed was 1.25 (1.09–1.44). Cause-specific mortality analyses revealed an association between gait speed and multiple causes of death.ConclusionsSeveral gait domains were associated with mortality risk, including Pace which primarily represents gait speed. The association between gait speed and mortality persisted after an extensive adjustment for covariates, suggesting that gait is a marker for overall health.