Dynamical Resilience Indicators in Time Series of Self-Rated Health Correspond to Frailty Levels in Older Adults

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2017 Jul 1;72(7):991-996. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glx065.


Background: We currently still lack valid methods to dynamically measure resilience for stressors before the appearance of adverse health outcomes that hamper well-being. Quantifying an older adult's resilience in an early stage would aid complex decision-making in health care. Translating complex dynamical systems theory to humans, we hypothesized that three dynamical indicators of resilience (variance, temporal autocorrelation, and cross-correlation) in time series of self-rated physical, mental, and social health were associated with frailty levels in older adults.

Methods: We monitored self-rated physical, mental, and social health during 100 days using daily visual analogue scale questions in 22 institutionalized older adults (mean age 84.0, SD: 5.9 years). Frailty was determined by the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) frailty index. The resilience indicators (variance, temporal autocorrelation, and cross-correlation) were calculated using multilevel models.

Results: The self-rated health time series of frail elderly exhibited significantly elevated variance in the physical, mental, and social domain, as well as significantly stronger cross-correlations between all three domains, as compared to the nonfrail group (all P < 0.001). Temporal autocorrelation was not significantly associated with frailty.

Conclusions: We found supporting evidence for two out of three hypothesized resilience indicators to be related to frailty levels in older adults. By mirroring the dynamical resilience indicators to a frailty index, we delivered a first empirical base to validate and quantify the construct of systemic resilience in older adults in a dynamic way.

Keywords: adaptive capacity; complex dynamical system; continuous monitoring; critical transitions; well-being.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Behavioral Research / methods
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly / psychology*
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Stress, Psychological* / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological* / psychology