Patterns of frailty in older adults: comparing results from higher and lower income countries using the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the Study on Global AGEing and Adult Health (SAGE)

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 29;8(10):e75847. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075847. eCollection 2013.


We use the method of deficit accumulation to describe prevalent and incident levels of frailty in community-dwelling older persons and compare prevalence rates in higher income countries in Europe, to prevalence rates in six lower income countries. Two multi-country data collection efforts, SHARE and SAGE, provide nationally representative samples of adults aged 50 years and older. Forty items were used to construct the frailty index in each data set. Our study shows that the level of frailty was distributed along the socioeconomic gradient in both higher and lower income countries such that those individuals with less education and income were more likely to be frail. Frailty increased with age and women were more likely to be frail in most countries. Across samples we find that the level of frailty was higher in the higher income countries than in the lower income countries.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly / statistics & numerical data*
  • Geriatric Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Global Health
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Grant support

The work of SV and HS was supported by the European Commission within the project “Long-Run Economic Perspectives of an Aging Society” (LEPAS) in the Seventh Framework Programme under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities theme (Grant Agreement: SSH7-CT-2009-217275). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.