Psychological Frailty in the Aging Patient

Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2015;83:45-53. doi: 10.1159/000382060. Epub 2015 Oct 20.


There is little written in the geriatric literature about the concept of psychological frailty which encompasses cognitive, mood, and motivational components. The concept is intended to consider brain changes that are beyond normal aging, but not necessarily inclusive of disease, that result in decreased cognitive or mood resilience in the presence of modest stressors, and may eventually lead to negative health outcomes in a manner parallel to physical frailty, an entity well known to clinicians. Most work exploring the interface between cognition, mood, and physical frailty has demonstrated a bidirectional association between the two domains. Psychological symptoms or deficits have been described as either worsening the degree of physical frailty, or physical frailty has been viewed as a risk to a worsening cognition or depression. However, psychological frailty, a consequence of age-altered brain function, has not been studied for itself. By what possible mechanism does the brain reveal its loss of resiliency under modest stress and how can this be visualized? Are there markers that predate a psychological decline that might permit a preventive intervention which could delay the appearance of negative health outcomes such as reduced functional capacity or increased dependency? The present review will explore these concepts and possibilities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Cognitive Reserve
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Frail Elderly / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mood Disorders / etiology
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Motivation
  • Risk
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology