Frailty during middle age linked to an increased risk of mortality
New United Kingdom research has found that frailty, a condition more commonly associated with seniors, could also be a significant problem in middle age, especially for those already living with chronic illness.
Led by the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, the large-scale study looked at data on 493,737 participants age 37 to 73 taken from UK Biobank, a large, long-term study which looks at conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer incidence in thousands of United Kingdom residents.
The researchers defined frailty as the presence of three or more of the following five indicators: weakness (reduced grip strength), slowness (gait speed), weight loss, low physical activity and exhaustion.
People with one or two indicators are classified as “pre-frail.”
The researchers identified 3.3 percent of the nearly 500,000 participants as being “frail” and 37.5 percent as meeting the criteria for “pre-frail.” Frailty could also be found in men and women of all ages and not just older participants.
However, it was more common in people with multiple long-term health conditions, especially multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, connective tissue disease and diabetes.
Frailty and pre-frailty were also associated with age, being female, being obese or being underweight, smoking, socioeconomic deprivation and infrequent alcohol intake.
After taking into account some of these factors, such as number of long-term conditions, smoking, alcohol and BMI, frailty was also associated with a more than two-times increased risk of mortality in males age 37 to 73 and in females over the age of 45.
Previous studies have found frailty to be a predictor of mortality, falls, worsening disability, hospitalization and care home admission groups of elderly people, but this is the first study to show that it can also be an important health problem for younger people.
“Interventions to reverse frailty or improve patient outcomes have, almost exclusively, focused on the very elderly or those in long-term care,” commented lead author of the study, Prof. Frances Mair.
“However, our findings indicate that there is a need for a change in focus, to start identifying frailty and intervene much earlier. The hope is, with earlier identification and intervention frailty can be reversed in some patients,” she explained.
The findings were published in the The Lancet Public Health. JB
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