ObjectivesTo define frailty using simple indicators; to identify risk factors for frailty as targets for prevention; and to investigate the predictive validity of this frailty classification for death, hospitalization, hip fracture, and activity of daily living (ADL) disability.
DesignProspective study, the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.
SettingForty U.S. clinical centers.
ParticipantsForty thousand six hundred fifty-seven women aged 65 to 79 at baseline.
MeasurementsComponents of frailty included self-reported muscle weakness/impaired walking, exhaustion, low physical activity, and unintended weight loss between baseline and 3 years of follow-up. Death, hip fractures, ADL disability, and hospitalizations were ascertained during an average of 5.9 years of follow-up.
ResultsBaseline frailty was classified in 16.3% of participants, and incident frailty at 3-years was 14.8%. Older age, chronic conditions, smoking, and depressive symptom score were positively associated with incident frailty, whereas income, moderate alcohol use, living alone, and self-reported health were inversely associated. Being underweight, overweight, or obese all carried significantly higher risk of frailty than normal weight. Baseline frailty independently predicted risk of death (hazard ratio (HR)=1.71, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.48-1.97), hip fracture (HR=1.57, 95% CI=1.11-2.20), ADL disability (odds ratio (OR)=3.15, 95% CI=2.47-4.02), and hospitalizations (OR=1.95, 95% CI=1.72-2.22) after adjustment for demographic characteristics, health behaviors, disability, and comorbid conditions.
ConclusionThese results support the robustness of the concept of frailty as a geriatric syndrome that predicts several poor outcomes in older women. Underweight, obesity, smoking, and depressive symptoms are strongly associated with the development of frailty and represent important targets for prevention.