Frailty: An Emerging Public Health Priority

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016 Mar 1;17(3):188-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016. Epub 2016 Jan 21.


The absolute and relative increases in the number of older persons are evident worldwide, from the most developed countries to the lowest-income regions. Multimorbidity and need for social support increase with age. Age-related conditions and, in particular, disabilities are a significant burden for the person, his or her family, and public health care systems. To guarantee the sustainability of public health systems and improve the quality of care provided, it is becoming urgent to act to prevent and delay the disabling cascade. Current evidence shows that too large a proportion of community-dwelling older people present risk factors for major health-related events and unmet clinical needs. In this scenario, the "frailty syndrome" is a condition of special interest. Frailty is a status of extreme vulnerability to endogenous and exogenous stressors exposing the individual to a higher risk of negative health-related outcomes. Frailty may represent a transition phase between successful aging and disability, and a condition to target for restoring robustness in the individual at risk. Given its syndromic nature, targeting frailty requires a comprehensive approach. The identification of frailty as a target for implementing preventive interventions against age-related conditions is pivotal. Every effort should be made by health care authorities to maximize efforts in this field, balancing priorities, needs, and resources. Raising awareness about frailty and age-related conditions in the population is important for effective prevention, and should lead to the promotion of lifelong healthy behaviors and lifestyle.

Keywords: Elderly; age-related conditions; aging; capacity; disability; frailty; function; health care; prevention; public health; risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Health Priorities*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health*