Mexican Americans and frailty: findings from the Hispanic established populations epidemiologic studies of the elderly

Am J Public Health. 2009 Apr;99(4):673-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.143958. Epub 2009 Feb 5.


Objectives: We examined the prevalence of frailty among Mexican American older adults and explored the correlates associated with becoming frail to determine their affect on disability and morbidity in this population.

Methods: We studied the trajectory of frailty over 10 years in 2049 Mexican Americans participating in the Hispanic Established Populations Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly. We constructed a frailty index based on weight loss, exhaustion, grip strength, walking speed, and physical activity and collected data on sociodemographic and health status, comorbidities, and functional measures of performance.

Results: The sample was 58% female, with a mean age of 74.43 years (SD = 6.04) at baseline. Fifty-five percent of participants at baseline and 75% of the surviving sample at follow-up (n = 777) were classified as prefrail or frail. Of persons identified as frail at baseline, 84% died by the end of follow-up. Baseline age, diabetes, arthritis, smoking status, body mass index, cognition, negative affect, and number of comorbid conditions were predictors of frailty at follow-up (R(2) = 0.29; P < .05).

Conclusions: Further research into ways to reduce the number of Mexican American older adults who become frail and disabled and therefore lose their independence is needed. Future studies should continue to examine the trajectory of frailty as a dynamic process that includes psychosocial and cognitive components.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly / statistics & numerical data*
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mortality
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Southwestern United States / epidemiology