A new landmark study has estimated for the first time how many seniors are expected to develop frailty each year, which the researchers say is a medical condition, rather than an inevitable part of ageing.
Led by researchers at Monash University in Australia, the new large-scale analysis looked at 46 studies that included a total of 120,805 people over the age of 60 across 28 countries.
The researchers calculated the incidence of frailty – defined as new cases of frailty among robust or prefrail individuals – and the incidence of prefrailty – defined as new cases of prefrailty among robust individuals.
Although there is currently no standard definition of frailty, both the researchers and health professionals tend to define someone as frail if they meet three out of the following five criteria: low physical activity, weak grip strength, low energy, slow walking speed and non-deliberate weight loss.
Those who meet one to two of the five criteria are defined as prefrail.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open, estimated that 4.3% of those over 60 will develop frailty per year.
Unsurprisingly, the incidence of frailty was significantly higher in prefrail individuals than robust individuals.
Women were also more likely to develop frailty than men.
According to lead author Dr Richard Ofori-Asenso, this is the first global study to estimate the incidence of frailty in the population.
As the results suggest that the risk of developing frailty is high, appropriate interventions are needed to try to prevent the condition, especially as the global population is living longer than ever.
The study authors outline that “many definitions consider frailty to be a dynamic process with an identifiable intermediate stage, usually referred to as prefrailty” and suggest “regular screening to assess older people’s vulnerability to developing frailty so that appropriate interventions can be implemented in a timely manner”.
They add that intervention such as muscle strength training and protein supplementation could even help to prevent or delay the progression of frailty.
A previous study by the same authors found that frailty could even be reversible.
Frailty is associated with a lower quality of life and a higher risk of death, hospitalisation and institutionalisation.
Although older adults are more likely to develop frailty, even young people can be frail if they have one or more disabling chronic diseases. – AFP Relaxnews