What is frailty?

Frailty is a clinically identifiable state of vulnerability that results from the body’s loss in built-in reserves as age-related cellular and physiological changes accumulate (Clegg et al. Lancet 2013).

Two theories dominate the understanding of frailty: the Physical Frailty Phenotype, which characterizes frailty as a clinical syndrome arising from altered metabolism and abnormal stress responses (Fried et al. Nature Aging 2021) and the Deficit Accumulation Frailty, which considers frailty as a state of poor health resulting from deficits accumulating over time (Howlett et al. Nature Aging 2021).

As frailty progresses, older adults are at a greater risk for falls, hospitalizations, loss of independence, nursing home admission, and death, even from small stressors, such as new medication, minor infection, or minor surgery.

Why is frailty important to measure?