Frailty and its association with disability and comorbidity in a community-dwelling sample of seniors in Montreal: a cross-sectional study

Aging Clin Exp Res. 2010 Feb;22(1):54-62. doi: 10.1007/BF03324816. Epub 2009 Nov 25.


Background and aims: The term frailty is used to describe older persons at high risk for adverse health outcomes. In 2001, Fried et al. proposed a now widely cited definition which suggests that frailty is a clinical entity related to, but distinct from, ADL disability and comorbidity. Frailty status was assessed based on the presence of any three of the following five characteristics: shrinking, weakness, poor endurance, slowness, and low activity. The objectives of the current study are to estimate the prevalence of frailty in a sample of community-dwelling older persons, to identify sociodemographic and health variables associated with frailty, and to examine the complex relationships between frailty and comorbidity, ADL disability and IADL disability.

Methods: This study is based on cross-sectional analysis of 740 community-dwelling seniors from the Montreal Unmet Needs Study (MUNS). The five characteristics of frailty were operationalised using measures available in MUNS. The Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test was used to identify variables associated with frailty. Overlaps between frailty, comorbidity and disability were assessed using proportions.

Results: Overall, 7.4% were classified as frail, 49.7% prefrail and 42.8% non-frail. Frailty was associated with age, sex, income, education, number of chronic diseases, ADL disability, and IADL disability. Among those classified as frail, 29.1% had disabilities in ADLs, 92.7% in IADLs and 81.8% had comorbidity.

Conclusion: Findings on the relationship between frailty and sociodemographic variables, morbidity and disability, support previous studies, providing further evidence that although frailty seems to be a distinct geriatric concept, it also overlaps with other concepts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity / trends*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Income
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Prevalence
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Self Concept
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vascular Diseases / epidemiology