Relationship of measures of frailty to visual function: the Beaver Dam Eye Study

Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2003;101:191-6; discussion 196-9.


Purpose: To investigate the association of standard measures of frailty to visual acuity and contrast sensitivity.

Methods: Time to walk a measured course, handgrip strength, peak expiratory flow rate, ability to stand from a sitting position without using arms, best-corrected visual acuity, and contrast sensitivity were assessed at the third examination (1998-2000) of the Beaver Dam Eye Study. The study is population-based with the initial census in 1988-1990.

Results: All measures of frailty and vision were significantly associated with age (poorer function at older ages). In general, women had poorer function than men in each age category. An "index of frailty" consisting of highest quartile (slowest) gait time, lowest quartile of peak expiratory flow rate, lowest quartile of handgrip strength, and inability to stand from sitting in one try (for those not in a wheelchair) was constructed for women and men. A score of 0 was the minimum amount of frailty, while a score of 4 indicated the maximum amount. Controlling for age, those with no evidence of frailty (score = 0) were likely to have the best visual acuity and best contrast sensitivity, while those with maximum evidence of frailty (score = 4) were likely to have poorest visual acuity and contrast sensitivity.

Conclusion: Greater frailty was associated with poorer visual functions. Including a measure of visual function when assessing frailty may improve upon the usefulness of an index of frailty in predicting incidence of chronic systemic diseases and survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Contrast Sensitivity
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Vision, Ocular*
  • Visual Acuity