Frailty in middle age linked to higher mortality

Frailty is a predictor of mortality in people much younger than commonly thought, according to researchers.

A University of Glasgow project looked at frailty in almost 500,000 men and women of all ages between 37 and 73 years old.

The study found that even after accounting for other factors such as socioeconomic status, smoking, drinking and weight, frail men aged 37 and older and women 45 and older were at an increased risk of death.

The researchers defined frailty as the presence of three or more out of five indicators: weakness, slowness, weight loss, low physical activity, and exhaustion.

People with one or two indicators were classified as ‘pre-frail’.

Experts said early intervention could reverse problems in many people.

The study of participants from the UK Biobank has been published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Lead author Professor 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.”

Co-author Dr Peter Hanlon said: “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.

“In light of our findings we 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.”

- Press Association

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