Frailty, morbidity and survival

Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2005 Sep-Oct;41(2):141-9. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2005.01.002. Epub 2005 Mar 16.


Frailty, as a reflection of decreased physical reserve rather than disability, is assessed by various functional tests rather than by specific disease burden. We investigated association of measures of frailty to disease outcomes and survival in a population-based study of Midwestern adults. The markers of frailty we evaluated were: time to walk a measured course (gait-time), handgrip strength, peak respiratory flow rate, ability to stand from a sitting position without using arms, and best corrected visual acuity. A history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and hypertension were obtained. Data were collected at the third examination (1998--2000) of the Beaver Dam Eye Study cohort (n=2962). Follow-up for mortality occurred up to 412 years after the 1998--2000 examinations. Markers of frailty were significantly associated with age. Values in the highest quartile (slowest) of gait-time, lowest quartile of peak expiratory flow rate, lowest quartile of handgrip strength, inability to stand from sitting in one try (those not in a wheelchair), and visual impairment were combined in an index to denote a general description of frailty. The range of the index was 0 (no frailty) to 5 (maximum frailty). Greater frailty was significantly associated with cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Frailty was associated with poorer survival over an interval of 412 years after adjusting for age, sex, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Greater frailty was associated with greater likelihood of concurrent medical conditions and with decreased survival.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Hand Strength
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity*
  • Mortality*
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Visual Acuity
  • Walking
  • Wisconsin