Associations of individual chronic diseases and multimorbidity with multidimensional frailty

Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2024 Feb:117:105259. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2023.105259. Epub 2023 Nov 4.


Objective: To examine the associations between individual chronic diseases and multidimensional frailty comprising physical, psychological, and social frailty.

Methods: Dutch individuals (N = 47,768) age ≥ 65 years completed a general health questionnaire sent by the Public Health Services (response rate of 58.5 %), including data concerning self-reported chronic diseases, multidimensional frailty, and sociodemographic characteristics. Multidimensional frailty was assessed with the Tilburg Frailty Indicator (TFI). Total frailty and each frailty domain were regressed onto background characteristics and the six most prevalent chronic diseases: diabetes mellitus, cancer, hypertension, arthrosis, urinary incontinence, and severe back disorder. Multimorbidity was defined as the presence of combinations of these six diseases.

Results: The six chronic diseases had medium and strong associations with total ((f2 = 0.122) and physical frailty (f2 = 0.170), respectively, and weak associations with psychological (f2 = 0.023) and social frailty (f2 = 0.008). The effects of the six diseases on the frailty variables differed strongly across diseases, with urinary incontinence and severe back disorder impairing frailty most. No synergetic effects were found; the effects of a disease on frailty did not get noteworthy stronger in the presence of another disease.

Conclusions: Chronic diseases, in particular urinary incontinence and severe back disorder, were associated with frailty. We thus recommend assigning different weights to individual chronic diseases in a measure of multimorbidity that aims to examine effects of multimorbidity on multidimensional frailty. Because there were no synergetic effects of chronic diseases, the measure does not need to include interactions between diseases.

Keywords: Chronic diseases; Multidimensional frailty Tilburg frailty indicator; Multimorbidity.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Frail Elderly
  • Frailty*
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Humans
  • Multimorbidity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urinary Incontinence* / epidemiology