Geriatric nurse supporting a weak patient, falls, rehab

Frailty can affect mortality, but the level of risk depends on where you live, according to a new study.

The report was published Tuesday in BMC Public Health

Frailty is caused by age-related declines in multiple systems of the body as people get older. If a person is frail, then he or she has a higher chance for negative health outcomes such as falls, hospitalizations and death. But it’s not always linked to age and can be triggered by a stressor event in a person’s life, research shows.

The authors of the new report wanted to look at the relationship between frailty and death. The scientists compared frailty and death among older people from the United States and Costa Rica. 

The researchers examined data from 1,790 older adults in Costa Rica and 6,680 older adults in the United States. Criteria included shrinking, low physical activity, exhaustion, slow gait and muscle weakness. The team used hazard models to assess the link between frailty and death from all causes. 

The death hazard was three times higher for frail adults compared with non-frail adults in Costa Rica, and it was four times higher for older adults in the United States.

Factors raising mortality risk included being male, smoking and older age. In the United States, attaining a higher level of education showed some protective benefits; being married or in a union was a protective factor in Costa Rica.

White older adults had a lower risk for death compared with people of other races and ethnicities in the United States, the authors found.

“Frailty can have a differential impact on mortality depending on the country,” the authors stated. 

“Access to universal healthcare across the life course in Costa Rica and higher levels of stress and social isolation in the US may explain differences observed in end-of-life trajectories among frail older adults,” the researchers added.

A few months ago, another study found that older adults who identify as a sexual and gender minority are more susceptible to frailty.