Risk of Frailty in Elderly With COPD: A Population-Based Study

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 May;71(5):689-95. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv154. Epub 2015 Sep 9.


Background: Despite frailty being an important geriatric syndrome, its prevalence and associated mortality risk in older patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are unknown.

Methods: We examined the relationship between COPD confirmed by spirometry, COPD severity, and frailty defined by the Fried criteria within 2,142 participants (aged 74.7 ± 5.6 years) of the Rotterdam Study, a prospective population-based cohort study.

Results: The frailty prevalence was significantly higher (p < .001) in participants with COPD (10.2%, 95% CI: 7.6%-13.5%) compared with participants without COPD (3.4%, 95% CI: 2.6%-4.4%). Adjusted for age, sex, smoking, corticosteroids, and other confounders, participants with COPD had a more than twofold increased prevalence of frailty (odds ratio 2.2, 95% CI: 1.34-3.54, p = .002). The prevalence was highest when severe airflow limitation, dyspnea, and frequent exacerbations were present. Participants with mild airflow limitation were more frequently prefrail. COPD elderly who were frail had significant worse survival.

Conclusions: This population-based cohort study in elderly demonstrates that COPD is associated with frailty even after adjusting for shared risk factors. Our findings suggest that frailty-in addition to COPD severity and comorbidities-identifies those COPD participants at high risk of mortality.

Keywords: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Epidemiology; Frailty; Mortality; Multimorbidities; Pulmonary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Frail Elderly
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / mortality*
  • Risk Factors
  • Spirometry
  • Vital Capacity