Background: The frailty index (FI) is a sensitive instrument to measure the degree of frailty in older adults, and is increasingly used in cohort studies on aging.
Aims: To operationalize an FI among older adults in the "Invecchiare in Chianti" (InCHIANTI) study, and to validate its predictive capacity for mortality.
Methods: Longitudinal data were used from 1129 InCHIANTI participants aged ≥ 65 years. A 42-item FI was operationalized following a standard procedure using baseline data (1998/2000). Associations of the FI with 3- and 6-year all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality were studied using Cox regression. Predictive accuracy was estimated by the area under the ROC curve (AUC), for a continuous FI score and for different cut-points.
Results: The median FI was 0.13 (IQR 0.08-0.21). Scores were higher in women, and at advanced age. The FI was associated with 3- and 6-year all-cause and CVD mortality (HR range per 0.01 FI increase = 1.03-1.07, all p < 0.001). The continuous FI score predicted the mortality outcomes with moderate-to-good accuracy (AUC range 0.72-0.83). When applying FI cut-offs between 0.15 and 0.35, the accuracy of this FI for predicting mortality was moderate (AUC range 0.61-0.76). Overall, the predictive accuracy of the FI was higher in women than in men.
Conclusions: The FI operationalized in the InCHIANTI study is a good instrument to grade the risk of all-cause mortality and CVD mortality. More measurement properties, such as the responsiveness of this FI when used as outcome measure, should be investigated in future research.
Keywords: Deficit accumulation; Frail elderly; Frailty index; Geriatrics; Risk prediction.