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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

South Carolina: Study Examines Frailty Phenotype and Cause-Specific Mortality in the United States

Researchers from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the University of Michigan have completed a study examining frailty phenotype and cause-specific mortality in the United States. The study was led by University of South Carolina epidemiology and biostatistics assistant professor, Dr. Matthew Lohman and published in The Journals of Gerontology.

“Frailty is a common condition among older adults and increases the risk of adverse outcomes including mortality,” says Dr. Lohman. “However, little is known about the incidence or risk of specific causes of death among frail individuals.”

With this study, the researchers analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study (2004 – 2012), linked to underlying cause-of-death information from the National Death Index. Participants included more than 10,000 older adults (65+), who completed a general health interview and physical measurements. Frailty was measured using phenotypic model criteria (i.e., exhaustion, low weight, low energy expenditure, slow gait, and weakness).

The authors’ analysis revealed that pre-frail and frail older adults had significantly greater hazard of all-cause mortality compared to individuals without frailty symptoms. Specifically, frailty was associated with 2.96, 2.82, 3.48, and 2.87 times greater hazard of death from heart disease, cancer, respiratory illness, and dementia, respectively.

Significantly greater risk of mortality from several different causes should be considered alongside the potential costs of screening and intervention for frailty in subspecialty and general geriatric clinical practice,” Dr. Lohman says.

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