Frailty in middle age linked to higher mortality

Photo of anxious womanFrailty tends to be associated with old age but new research by IHW and General Practice and Primary Care's Professor Frances Mair, Dr Peter Hanlon and colleagues has highlighted the significance of frailty in middle age, especially in those living with chronic illness, and the importance of diagnosing it at an early stage.

The team found that frailty could be identified in men and women of all ages between 37 and 73 years-old, and was more common in people with multiple long-term health conditions. Being frail carried a greater than two-fold increase in mortality risk, over and above lifestyle risk factors and number of long-term health conditions.

Lead author Frances Mair said:

People with frailty are understood to be at higher risk of adverse health events, but previous research has almost always focused on older people. In our study we applied the test for frailty to a wider and younger group of people and found that the condition was present in people of all ages. Interventions to reverse frailty or improve patient outcomes have, almost exclusively, focused on the very elderly or those in long-term care. 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.

The authors suggest that an assessment of frailty should be incorporated into routine monitoring and assessment of people with multimorbidity, which may help identification of those at greater risk to ensure more accurate targeting of care. Co-author Peter Hanlon commented:

Although frailty should be a cause for concern when identified in middle to older aged people, it may be reversible, particularly if it is identified at an early stage. Identifying frailty may have positive implications for care, planning interventions and a patient’s prognosis, particularly in individuals who have more than one underlying health condition.

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First published: 14 March 2018

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