Factors associated with frailty in a community-dwelling population of older adults

Danielle Teles da Cruz Marcel de Toledo Vieira Ronaldo Rocha Bastos Isabel Cristina Gonçalves Leite About the authors

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE

To analyze if demographic and socioeconomic factors and factors related to health and health services are associated with frailty in community-dwelling older adults.

METHODS

This is a cross-sectional study with 339 older adults (60 years old or more) living in Juiz de Fora, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 2015. A household survey was carried out and frailty was evaluated using the Edmonton Frail Scale. For the analysis of the factors associated with outcome, a theoretical model of determination was constructed with three hierarchical blocks: block 1 with demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, block 2 with the health of the older adult (divided into three sub-levels: 2.1 self-reported health variables, 2.2 self-perceived health variables, and 2.3 geriatric syndromes), and block 3 with characteristics related to health services. The variables were adjusted in relation to each other within each block; those with significance level ≤ 0.20 were included in the Poisson regression model and adjusted to a higher level, considering a level of significance of 5%.

RESULTS

The prevalence of frailty among older adults was 35.7% (95%CI 30.7–40.9). Of the total, 42.2% did not present frailty; 22.1% were apparently vulnerable. Among the frail ones, 52.9% presented mild frailty, 32.2% moderate frailty, and 14.9% severe frailty. Frailty was associated with difficulty walking, need for an auxiliary device to walk, presence of caregiver, depressive disorders, and functional dependence to perform instrumental activities of daily living.

CONCLUSIONS

Frailty is frequent among the older population and it is associated with health variables of the three sub-levels that make up block 2 of the theoretical hierarchical model of determination: self-reported health variables, self-perceived health variables, and geriatric syndromes.

Aged; Frail Elderly; Aging; Health Vulnerability; Risk Factors; Health Surveys

INTRODUCTION

Population aging is one of the most striking phenomena in contemporary societies and it presents important developments and impacts for society and health systems. According to the World Health Organizationa a World Health Organization. World report on ageing and health. Geneva: WHO; 2015 [cited 2017 Apr 20]. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/186463/1/9789240694811_eng.pdf , the Brazilian older population will increase from the current 12.5% to approximately 30% by 2050. The magnitude of this process in the country makes it necessary to understand the demands related to the health of older adultsa a World Health Organization. World report on ageing and health. Geneva: WHO; 2015 [cited 2017 Apr 20]. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/186463/1/9789240694811_eng.pdf .

The situation becomes even more challenging for countries such as Brazil, where a number of particularities are present that potentiate the negative impacts of population aging on the social security system and, consequently, on the health of older adults. Among the main aspects to be observed in this context, we can mention poverty, low education level, social inequality, gender issues, abuse, lack of formal social support, low pension values, high prevalence of multiple chronic diseases, lack of leisure, misinformation, prejudice and disrespect, and the incongruity of the health system in the face of aging populations1313. Geib LTC. Determinantes sociais da saúde do idoso. Cienc Saude Coletiva. 2012;17(1):123-33. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1413-81232012000100015
https://doi.org/10.1590/S1413-8123201200...
,a a World Health Organization. World report on ageing and health. Geneva: WHO; 2015 [cited 2017 Apr 20]. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/186463/1/9789240694811_eng.pdf .

In this context, frailty should be understood as a public health priority, since it is highly prevalent, negatively affects the quality of life of older adults and their families, and demands high social and economic costs. In addition, it is an important predictor of falls, functional disability, hospitalizations, comorbidities, complications of existing diseases, institutionalization, and mortality33. Buckinx F, Rolland Y, Reginster JY, Ricour C, Petermans J, Bruyère O. Burden of frailty in the elderly population: perspectives for a public health challenge. Arch Public Health. 2015;73(1):19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-x
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-...
,44. Cesari M, Prince M, Thiyagarajan JA, Carvalho IA, Bernabei R, Chan P, et al. Frailty: an emerging public health priority. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17(3):188-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12....
,1111. Fried LP, Tangen CM, Walston J, Newman AB, Hirsch C, Gottdiener J, et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(3):M146-57. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146
https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146...
,1717. Llibre JJ, López AM, Valhuerdi A, Guerra M, Llibre-Guerra JJ, Sánchez YY, et al. Frailty, dependency and mortality predictors in a cohort of Cuban older adults, 2003-2011. MEDICC Rev. 2014;16(1):24-30.,2222. Rolfson DB, Majumdar SR, Tsuyuki RT, Tahir A, Rockwood K. Validity and reliability of the Edmonton Frail Scale. Age Ageing. 2006;35(5):526-9. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afl041
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afl041...
.

Frailty can be understood as a multifactorial, multifaceted, dynamic, syndromic condition, resulting from the existing arrangement between the biological, social, psychological, and environmental aspects that interact with each other in the course of human life and the relationships that are processed within it. Thus, health-related vulnerabilities must extrapolate the physical dimension and cannot be disassociated from domains such as cognition, humor, and social support33. Buckinx F, Rolland Y, Reginster JY, Ricour C, Petermans J, Bruyère O. Burden of frailty in the elderly population: perspectives for a public health challenge. Arch Public Health. 2015;73(1):19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-x
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-...
,44. Cesari M, Prince M, Thiyagarajan JA, Carvalho IA, Bernabei R, Chan P, et al. Frailty: an emerging public health priority. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17(3):188-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12....
,2222. Rolfson DB, Majumdar SR, Tsuyuki RT, Tahir A, Rockwood K. Validity and reliability of the Edmonton Frail Scale. Age Ageing. 2006;35(5):526-9. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afl041
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afl041...
.

Population studies that use this concept and that evaluate frailty and associated factors in community-dwelling older adults are scarce in Brazil. The objective of this study was to analyze the factors associated with frailty in community-dwelling older adults.

METHODS

This is a cross-sectional, population-based study carried out with a household survey between October 2014 and March 2015, with a sample of 339 older adults aged 60 years or more living in the Northern Zone of the city of Juiz de Fora, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. This study is part of a larger research project, and it corresponds to a cross-sectional profile of the second phase of a cohort, which begun in 2010.

The 2010 study consisted of 420 older adults and the participants were selected by stratified and conglomerate random sampling in multiple stages. The primary units were the census tracts. For the random selection, the tracts were grouped into strata defined according to the different types of health care to which the population of the tract was assigned, subdivided into primary care (Family Health Strategy [FHS] or traditional), secondary care, or uncovered area. We selected these tracts with probabilities proportional to their size (resident population, according to the 2000 Demographic Census), independently, in each stratum55. Cruz-Jentoft AJ, Baeyens JP, Bauer JM, Boirie Y, Cederholm T, Landi F, et al. Sarcopenia: European consensus on definition and diagnosis: Report of the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People. Age Ageing. 2010;39(4):412-23. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afq034
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afq034...
.

For the 2014 survey, we estimated the calculation of the sample size from data from the previous work and from the results of the 2010 IBGE census related to the population of the delimited area, at the level of census tract breakdown. There were changes in the population and in the distribution of these tracts, which required the resizing of the representative probabilistic sample based on stratification and conglomeration. In order to neutralize the loss of panel members, who ceased to be part of the population surveyed over the years, we used the over sample method, allowing the initial sampling to be respected, as long as the initial population is known and statistical treatment and weight assignment are different between the groups that make up each situation of the panel member lost (cases of death, change of address without being able to identify the new address, long-term travel, long-term hospitalization, and entry into long-term institution)2121. Rochat S, Cumming RG, Blyth F, Creasey H, Handelsman D, Le Couteur DG, et al. Frailty and use of health and community services by community-dwelling older men: the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project. Age Ageing. 2010;39(2):228-33. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afp257
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afp257...
. We selected age, sex and education level as the variables to mark the entry of new subjects. Thus, 248 older adults of the 2010 study and 175 new older adults (amounting to 423 older adults) made up the sample for the 2014 study.

The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) was used as a screening tool for cognitive decline, linked to the process of both senility and senescence, which determined the need or not of another respondent. In the case of another respondent, the issues that require the self-perception of the older adult were not addressed. Researchers state that the education level influences the performance of the MMSE and the adoption of stratified cutoff points decreases diagnostic failures, since the education of the Brazilian population is quite diversified and the education level of most older adults is low22. Bertolucci PHF, Brucki SMD, Campacci SR, Juliano Y. O Mini-Exame do Estado Mental em uma população geral: impacto da escolaridade. Arq. Neuropsiquiatr. 1994;52(1):1-7. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0004-282X1994000100001
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0004-282X199400...
,1919. Melo DM, Barbosa AJG. O uso do Mini-Exame do Estado Mental em pesquisas com idosos no Brasil: uma revisão sistemática. Cienc Saude Coletiva. 2015;20(12):3865-76. https://doi.org/10.1590/1413-812320152012.06032015
https://doi.org/10.1590/1413-81232015201...
. However, to date, there is no consensus on the cutoff points to be used in Brazil2020. Rahman MM, Davis DN. Addressing the class imbalance problem in medical datasets. IJMLC. 2013;3(2):224-8. https://doi.org/10.7763/IJMLC.2013.V3.307
https://doi.org/10.7763/IJMLC.2013.V3.30...
.

From this perspective, we used the cutoff point used by the State Health Department of Minas Gerais, which uses this instrument for the evaluation of older adults. The minimum expected score for older adults with four years or more of education is 25 points, and the expected score for older adults with less than four years of education is 18 points. Lower scores indicate cognitive impairmentb b Minas Gerais. Secretaria de Estado de Saúde. Manual do Prontuário de Saúde da Família. Belo Horizonte: SES-MG; 2008. . Individuals who presented behavior in the MMSE suggestive of cognitive decline and who were not accompanied by family members or caregivers were excluded (n = 23).

The evaluation of frailty was performed using the Edmonton Frail Scale (EFS)2222. Rolfson DB, Majumdar SR, Tsuyuki RT, Tahir A, Rockwood K. Validity and reliability of the Edmonton Frail Scale. Age Ageing. 2006;35(5):526-9. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afl041
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afl041...
, adapted and validated for the Brazilian population99. Fernandes HCL, Gaspar JC, Yamashita CH, Amendola F, Alvarenga MRM, Oliveira MAC. Avaliação da fragilidade de idosos atendidos em uma unidade da Estratégia Saúde da Família. Texto Contexto Enferm. 2013;22(2):423-31. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-07072013000200019
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-0707201300...
. The scale has eleven items that evaluate nine domains: cognition, general health status, functional independence, social support, drug use, nutrition, humor, continence, and functional performance. The total score can vary from zero to seventeen points: no frailty (0 to 4), apparently vulnerable (5 and 6), mild frailty (7 and 8), moderate frailty (9 and 10), and severe frailty (11 points or more). The outcome variable was dichotomized according to the frailty scores: frail and non-frail with cutoff point ≥ 7 points.

The first item of the EFS, the clock test, determines the respondent of this instrument: if the older adult fails it, the caregiver is responsible for responding the instrument. Older adults who were reproved with significant errors and who did not have a caregiver (n = 61) were excluded from the study on frailty99. Fernandes HCL, Gaspar JC, Yamashita CH, Amendola F, Alvarenga MRM, Oliveira MAC. Avaliação da fragilidade de idosos atendidos em uma unidade da Estratégia Saúde da Família. Texto Contexto Enferm. 2013;22(2):423-31. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-07072013000200019
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-0707201300...
,2323. Rolfson DB, Wilcock G, Mitnitski A, King E, Jager CA, Rockwood K, et al. An assessment of neurocognitive speed in relation to frailty. Age Ageing. 2013;42(2):191-6. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afs185
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afs185...
.

The questionnaire used to identify the sociodemographic profile and health issues was standardized and pretested. The Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4) was also used to track anxiety and depression disorders, the Falls Efficacy Scale - International - Brazil was used to evaluate fear of falling, and the Lawton and Brody scale1616. Lawton MP, Brody EM. Assessment of older people: self-maintaining and instrumental activities of daily living. Gerontologist. 1969;9(3 Pt 1):179-86. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/9.3_Part_1.179
https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/9.3_Part_...
was used to evaluate the functional capacity to perform instrumental activities of daily living (IADL).

The Lawton and Brody scale, although not having satisfactory standards of adaptation and validation for Brazil, is widely used in national research studies11. Barbosa BR, Almeida JM, Barbosa MR, Rossi-Barbosa LAR. Avaliação da capacidade funcional dos idosos e fatores associados à incapacidade. Cienc Saude Coletiva. 2014;19(8):3317-25. https://doi.org/10.1590/1413-81232014198.06322013
https://doi.org/10.1590/1413-81232014198...
,1010. Fhon JRS, Diniz MA, Leonardo KC, Kusumota L, Haas VJ, Rodrigues RAP. Síndrome de fragilidade relacionada à incapacidade funcional no idoso. Acta Paul Enferm. 2012;25(4):589-94. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-21002012005000016
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-2100201200...
,2424. Vieira RA, Guerra RO, Giacomin KC, Vasconcelos KSS, Andrade ACS, Pereira LSM, et al. Prevalência de fragilidade e fatores associados em idosos comunitários de Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil: dados do estudo FIBRA. Cad Saude Publica. 2013;29(8):1631-43. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00126312
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0012631...
and is mentioned as a tool for the functional evaluation of older adults in primary care, since 2006, by the Ministry of Healthc c Ministério da Saúde (BR), Secretaria de Atenção à Saúde, Departamento de Atenção Básica. Envelhecimento e saúde da pessoa idosa. Brasília (DF); 2006 [cited 2017 Apr 20]. (Caderno de Atenção Básica, 19). Available from: http://dab.saude.gov.br/portaldab/biblioteca.php?conteudo=publicacoes/cab19 , and also by the Health Department of the State of Minas Geraisb b Minas Gerais. Secretaria de Estado de Saúde. Manual do Prontuário de Saúde da Família. Belo Horizonte: SES-MG; 2008. .

Absolute and relative frequencies were described, as well as the prevalence of the outcome. The chi-square test was used to analyze the association of the dependent variable with the independent variables in the bivariate analysis. Using Poisson regression, we analyzed the independent variables associated with outcome, controlling possible confounding factors (adjusted PR) in the multiple analysis. Statistical significance was analyzed using the Wald tests for heterogeneity and linear trend.

For the analysis of the factors associated with frailty, we constructed a theoretical determination model with three hierarchical blocks of variables (Figure), adjusted for each other within each block. Variables with significance level ≤ 0.20 were included in the Poisson regression model and adjusted to a higher level.

Figure
Theoretical model of investigation of the effects of the independent variables on frailty in hierarchical blocks.

The independent variables were grouped into three blocks: Block 1 with demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, Block 2 with the health of the older adult (divided into three sub-levels: 2.1 self-reported health variables, 2.2 self-perceived health variables, and 2.3 geriatric syndromes), and Block 3 with characteristics related to health services.

We used the software Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 15.0 in its module of complex samples, which considers the characteristics of the sample plan and significance level of 5%, and Stata 9.2, also considering the sample plan (module of survey data analysis).

We followed the Regulatory Standards and Directives of Research Involving Human Beings, according to Resolution 466 of the National Health Council. The Ethics Committee of the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora has approved the study (Process 771/916). The informed consent was read and signed by all participants.

RESULTS

The sample consisted of 61.1% of women. Average age was 74.3 years (SD = 8.24) and average education level was 4.2 years of study (SD = 3.47). Among the participants, 47.8% declared themselves white, 59% belonged to socioeconomic level C, 61.7% were married or had a common-law marriage, and 93.8% lived with someone. Catholics were 76.7% of the interviewees and 96.9% classified religion as important for their lives. Morbidity was reported by 89.4% of the older adults, walking difficulty was reported by 43.1% of the individuals, and 81.1% said they did not need help to walk. The need for the continued use of at least one drug was reported by 92% of the sample. A large proportion (44.5%) had a caregiver (96.0% of them had family members or friends as caregivers). Poor or regular health perception was reported by 41.6% of the older adults, 53.7% reported regular or poor health in relation to vision, and 27.1% in relation to hearing (Table 1).

Table 1
Characteristics of the sample according to independent variables. Juiz de Fora, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2015.

Depression and anxiety disorders were observed in 19.2% and 25.1% of the older adults, respectively. Regarding geriatric syndromes, 35.7% reported a fall in the last year, 95.7% were afraid of falling, and 16.8% presented functional dependence. Most of the older adults lived in areas where the main type of health care was the FHS, reported using the SUS for appointments, hospitalizations, exams, vaccination, or participation in educational groups, and reported having health insurance (Table 1).

The prevalence of frailty was 35.7% (95%CI 30.7–40.9). Of the total, 42.2% did not present frailty, 22.1% were apparently vulnerable, and, among the frail ones, 18.9% presented mild frailty, 11.5% moderate frailty, and 5.3% severe frailty.

Frailty was associated with females, age increase, socioeconomic levels D or E, low education level, widowhood, difficulty walking, and the need for an auxiliary device to walk. Frailty was more frequent among those who had a caregiver (p < 0.001), poor or regular perception of vision (p < 0.001), depression (p < 0.001) and anxiety disorders (p < 0.001), those who reported falls (p = 0.002), and those with functional dependency (p < 0.001) (Table 2).

Table 2
Crude and adjusted prevalence ratios between the hierarchical blocks for the occurrence of frailty. Juiz de Fora, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2015.

Five variables remained associated with frailty in the multiple regression model (Table 3). Among the variables of block 2.1, difficulty walking (adjusted PR = 4.27, 95%CI 1.74–10.52), need for an auxiliary device to walk (adjusted PR = 9.42, 95%CI 2.06–43.16), and presence of caregiver (adjusted PR = 3.34, 95%CI 1.42–7.85) were risk factors. Depressive disorder (adjusted PR = 3.47, 95%CI 1.27–9.50) in block 2.2 and functional dependence for IADL (adjusted PR = 5.84, 95%CI 1.00–34.87) in block 2.3 were risk factors. No variables of the most distal (block 1) and proximal (block 3) levels presented statistical significance after the adjusted analysis.

Table 3
Multiple regression analysis in hierarchical blocks for the occurrence of frailty among older adults. Juiz de Fora, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2015.

DISCUSSION

Prevalence of frailty was 35.7%, which is similar to that found in other national studies that have used the same tool to operationalize the outcome. In the study of adaptation and validation of the EFS in a sample of Brazilian older adults, prevalence was 31.4%99. Fernandes HCL, Gaspar JC, Yamashita CH, Amendola F, Alvarenga MRM, Oliveira MAC. Avaliação da fragilidade de idosos atendidos em uma unidade da Estratégia Saúde da Família. Texto Contexto Enferm. 2013;22(2):423-31. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-07072013000200019
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-0707201300...
. In the research carried out by Fhon et al.1010. Fhon JRS, Diniz MA, Leonardo KC, Kusumota L, Haas VJ, Rodrigues RAP. Síndrome de fragilidade relacionada à incapacidade funcional no idoso. Acta Paul Enferm. 2012;25(4):589-94. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-21002012005000016
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-2100201200...
, 39.1% of the subjects presented some degree of frailty. Prevalence was 30.1% in another study carried out with older adults treated at a FHU unit in a municipality of São Paulo, Brazil99. Fernandes HCL, Gaspar JC, Yamashita CH, Amendola F, Alvarenga MRM, Oliveira MAC. Avaliação da fragilidade de idosos atendidos em uma unidade da Estratégia Saúde da Família. Texto Contexto Enferm. 2013;22(2):423-31. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-07072013000200019
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-0707201300...
. Duarte et al.77. Duarte MCS, Fernandes MGM, Rodrigues RAP, Nóbrega MML. Prevalência e fatores sociodemográficos associados à fragilidade em mulheres idosas. Rev Bras Enferm. 2013;66(6):901-6. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-71672013000600014
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-7167201300...
estimated a prevalence of 39.2% when investigating frailty in a sample of older women.

Discrepancies in prevalence, varying between 4.0% and 59.1%, are also found in the literature33. Buckinx F, Rolland Y, Reginster JY, Ricour C, Petermans J, Bruyère O. Burden of frailty in the elderly population: perspectives for a public health challenge. Arch Public Health. 2015;73(1):19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-x
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-...
,44. Cesari M, Prince M, Thiyagarajan JA, Carvalho IA, Bernabei R, Chan P, et al. Frailty: an emerging public health priority. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17(3):188-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12....
,1111. Fried LP, Tangen CM, Walston J, Newman AB, Hirsch C, Gottdiener J, et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(3):M146-57. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146
https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146...
,1212. Gale CR, Cooper C, Sayer AA. Prevalence of frailty and disability: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Age Ageing. 2015;44(1):162-5. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afu148
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afu148...
,2424. Vieira RA, Guerra RO, Giacomin KC, Vasconcelos KSS, Andrade ACS, Pereira LSM, et al. Prevalência de fragilidade e fatores associados em idosos comunitários de Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil: dados do estudo FIBRA. Cad Saude Publica. 2013;29(8):1631-43. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00126312
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0012631...
. However, it is important to note that these divergences can be attributed to the different theoretical models and the operational tools adopted to measure frailty, as well as the issues of methodological nature, such as type of study, characteristics, and selection criteria33. Buckinx F, Rolland Y, Reginster JY, Ricour C, Petermans J, Bruyère O. Burden of frailty in the elderly population: perspectives for a public health challenge. Arch Public Health. 2015;73(1):19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-x
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-...
,44. Cesari M, Prince M, Thiyagarajan JA, Carvalho IA, Bernabei R, Chan P, et al. Frailty: an emerging public health priority. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17(3):188-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12....
,1111. Fried LP, Tangen CM, Walston J, Newman AB, Hirsch C, Gottdiener J, et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(3):M146-57. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146
https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146...
,1212. Gale CR, Cooper C, Sayer AA. Prevalence of frailty and disability: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Age Ageing. 2015;44(1):162-5. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afu148
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afu148...
,2424. Vieira RA, Guerra RO, Giacomin KC, Vasconcelos KSS, Andrade ACS, Pereira LSM, et al. Prevalência de fragilidade e fatores associados em idosos comunitários de Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil: dados do estudo FIBRA. Cad Saude Publica. 2013;29(8):1631-43. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00126312
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0012631...
. Frailty can be conceived as an evolving concept, as there is no common definition among researchers. This fact implies different tools and types of evaluation33. Buckinx F, Rolland Y, Reginster JY, Ricour C, Petermans J, Bruyère O. Burden of frailty in the elderly population: perspectives for a public health challenge. Arch Public Health. 2015;73(1):19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-x
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-...
,44. Cesari M, Prince M, Thiyagarajan JA, Carvalho IA, Bernabei R, Chan P, et al. Frailty: an emerging public health priority. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17(3):188-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12....
,88. Fabrício-Wehbe SCC, Schiaveto FV, Vendrusculo TRP, Haas VJ, Dantas RAS, Rodrigues RAP. Adaptação cultural e validade da Edmonton Frail Scale - EFS em uma amostra de idosos brasileiros. Rev Latino-Am Enfermagem. 2009;17(6):1043-9. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-11692009000600018
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-1169200900...
,1111. Fried LP, Tangen CM, Walston J, Newman AB, Hirsch C, Gottdiener J, et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(3):M146-57. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146
https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146...
,2222. Rolfson DB, Majumdar SR, Tsuyuki RT, Tahir A, Rockwood K. Validity and reliability of the Edmonton Frail Scale. Age Ageing. 2006;35(5):526-9. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afl041
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afl041...
,2525. Woo J, Goggins WB, Sham A, Ho SC. Social determinants of frailty. Gerontology. 2005;51(6):402-8. https://doi.org/10.1159/000088705
https://doi.org/10.1159/000088705...
. Therefore, there is a wide range of possibilities to explore and interpret this syndromic condition, which makes direct comparisons between the prevalence estimated by the studies questionable. Researchers in the area also say that, given the lack of common definition surrounding the subject, it is important to keep in mind that the available evaluation tools are not exclusive but complementary33. Buckinx F, Rolland Y, Reginster JY, Ricour C, Petermans J, Bruyère O. Burden of frailty in the elderly population: perspectives for a public health challenge. Arch Public Health. 2015;73(1):19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-x
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-...
,44. Cesari M, Prince M, Thiyagarajan JA, Carvalho IA, Bernabei R, Chan P, et al. Frailty: an emerging public health priority. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17(3):188-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12....
.

Other studies indicate an association between gait difficulty and use of auxiliary device and the evaluated outcome1212. Gale CR, Cooper C, Sayer AA. Prevalence of frailty and disability: findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Age Ageing. 2015;44(1):162-5. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afu148
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afu148...
,2424. Vieira RA, Guerra RO, Giacomin KC, Vasconcelos KSS, Andrade ACS, Pereira LSM, et al. Prevalência de fragilidade e fatores associados em idosos comunitários de Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil: dados do estudo FIBRA. Cad Saude Publica. 2013;29(8):1631-43. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00126312
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0012631...
. These factors are directly related to the physical dimension of frailty. The triad of sarcopenia, neuroendocrine dysfunction, and immune alteration has been proposed as a vicious cycle of gradual decline of energy, resulting in increased dependence and susceptibility to aggressors1111. Fried LP, Tangen CM, Walston J, Newman AB, Hirsch C, Gottdiener J, et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(3):M146-57. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146
https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146...
. Sarcopenia is characterized by the progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and muscle function (strength or performance) associated with aging; consequently, it generates weakness, fatigue, and reduced tolerance to exercise and ability to perform daily activities55. Cruz-Jentoft AJ, Baeyens JP, Bauer JM, Boirie Y, Cederholm T, Landi F, et al. Sarcopenia: European consensus on definition and diagnosis: Report of the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People. Age Ageing. 2010;39(4):412-23. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afq034
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afq034...
. The reduction in neurocognitive speed is also indicated as an important component of frailty in older adults, capable of predicting slow gait2323. Rolfson DB, Wilcock G, Mitnitski A, King E, Jager CA, Rockwood K, et al. An assessment of neurocognitive speed in relation to frailty. Age Ageing. 2013;42(2):191-6. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afs185
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afs185...
. In this way, frail individuals report difficulty in walking and need for an auxiliary device to walk. Environmental issues and frequent health conditions in older adults, such as falls, morbidities, functional dependence, and fear of falling can also explain this difficulty and the use of assistive technology.

Depressive disorders and depression are strongly related to frailty, falls, and decline in functional capacity and quality of life. Older adults with depressive disorders tend to reduce the level of physical activity, social participation, autonomy, and independence in carrying out activities of daily living, contributing to the perpetuation of the vicious cycle of frailty66. Dillon C, Tartaglini MF, Stefani D, Salgado P, Taragano FE, Allegri RF. Geriatric depression and its relation with cognitive impairment and dementia. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2014;59(2):450-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2014.04.006
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2014.0...
,1111. Fried LP, Tangen CM, Walston J, Newman AB, Hirsch C, Gottdiener J, et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(3):M146-57. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146
https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146...
,1414. Jürschik P, Nunin C, Botigué T, Escobar MA, Lavedán A, Viladrosa M. Prevalence of frailty and factors associated with frailty in the elderly population of Lleida, Spain: the FRALLE survey. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2012;55(3):625-31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2012.07.002
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2012.0...
,2424. Vieira RA, Guerra RO, Giacomin KC, Vasconcelos KSS, Andrade ACS, Pereira LSM, et al. Prevalência de fragilidade e fatores associados em idosos comunitários de Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil: dados do estudo FIBRA. Cad Saude Publica. 2013;29(8):1631-43. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00126312
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0012631...
. In addition, cognitive impairment is commonly found in older adults associated with different types of depressive disorders66. Dillon C, Tartaglini MF, Stefani D, Salgado P, Taragano FE, Allegri RF. Geriatric depression and its relation with cognitive impairment and dementia. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2014;59(2):450-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2014.04.006
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2014.0...
. The literature also reports that, there is an increasing tendency for depressive symptoms to be developed as the level of frailty increases1111. Fried LP, Tangen CM, Walston J, Newman AB, Hirsch C, Gottdiener J, et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(3):M146-57. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146
https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146...
,1515. Lakey SL, LaCroix AZ, Gray SL, Borson S, Williams CD, Calhoun D, et al. Antidepressant use, depressive symptoms, and incident frailty in women aged 65 and older from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012;60(5):854-61. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2012.03940.x
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2012...
,2424. Vieira RA, Guerra RO, Giacomin KC, Vasconcelos KSS, Andrade ACS, Pereira LSM, et al. Prevalência de fragilidade e fatores associados em idosos comunitários de Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil: dados do estudo FIBRA. Cad Saude Publica. 2013;29(8):1631-43. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00126312
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0012631...
.

We observed greater frailty among older adults who have caregivers in this study. With the increase in frailty among older adults and the intensification of this syndromic condition, we can expect a greater degree of functional dependence, greater use of health services, and greater demand for health care, social support, and institutionalization33. Buckinx F, Rolland Y, Reginster JY, Ricour C, Petermans J, Bruyère O. Burden of frailty in the elderly population: perspectives for a public health challenge. Arch Public Health. 2015;73(1):19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-x
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-...
,44. Cesari M, Prince M, Thiyagarajan JA, Carvalho IA, Bernabei R, Chan P, et al. Frailty: an emerging public health priority. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17(3):188-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12....
,2121. Rochat S, Cumming RG, Blyth F, Creasey H, Handelsman D, Le Couteur DG, et al. Frailty and use of health and community services by community-dwelling older men: the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project. Age Ageing. 2010;39(2):228-33. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afp257
https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afp257...
,27. In our study, as reported in the literature, a family member or friend takes responsibility for caring for the older adult1818. Loureiro LSN, Fernandes MGM, Nóbrega MML, Rodrigues RAP. Sobrecarga em cuidadores familiares de idosos: associação com características do idoso e demanda de cuidado. Rev Bras Enferm. 2014;67(2):227-32. https://doi.org/10.5935/0034-7167.20140030
https://doi.org/10.5935/0034-7167.201400...
. Keeping the older adult in the community, having a caregiver to supervise him or her, and providing the necessary health and social support can be an important alternative to avoid institutionalization and to maintain quality of life. The higher prevalence of frailty among those who have caregivers can also be explained by the fact that the need for caregiver is a consequence of frailty. However, we highlight that no studies were found that have specifically explored the relationships between frailty and caregiver.

This study corroborates the association between frailty and functional impairment widely discussed in the literature10–12,14,17,21,24,26. The frailty syndrome is considered a dynamic process, leading to a spiral of decline of several systems, responsible for increasing the status of frailty and for promoting or intensifying other conditions, such as autonomy and functional disability. Both functional disability and frailty can be understood as a complex construct, resulting from the interaction and the way in which various factors, whether biological, psychological, clinical, social, or environmental, are articulated for each older adult. Predictors of mortality among older adults are also important33. Buckinx F, Rolland Y, Reginster JY, Ricour C, Petermans J, Bruyère O. Burden of frailty in the elderly population: perspectives for a public health challenge. Arch Public Health. 2015;73(1):19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-x
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-...
,44. Cesari M, Prince M, Thiyagarajan JA, Carvalho IA, Bernabei R, Chan P, et al. Frailty: an emerging public health priority. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17(3):188-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12....
,1111. Fried LP, Tangen CM, Walston J, Newman AB, Hirsch C, Gottdiener J, et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(3):M146-57. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146
https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146...
,1717. Llibre JJ, López AM, Valhuerdi A, Guerra M, Llibre-Guerra JJ, Sánchez YY, et al. Frailty, dependency and mortality predictors in a cohort of Cuban older adults, 2003-2011. MEDICC Rev. 2014;16(1):24-30.,2525. Woo J, Goggins WB, Sham A, Ho SC. Social determinants of frailty. Gerontology. 2005;51(6):402-8. https://doi.org/10.1159/000088705
https://doi.org/10.1159/000088705...
. Research studies in different populations also describe the existence of a growing association between a higher degree of functional impairment and higher levels of frailty1010. Fhon JRS, Diniz MA, Leonardo KC, Kusumota L, Haas VJ, Rodrigues RAP. Síndrome de fragilidade relacionada à incapacidade funcional no idoso. Acta Paul Enferm. 2012;25(4):589-94. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-21002012005000016
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-2100201200...
,1111. Fried LP, Tangen CM, Walston J, Newman AB, Hirsch C, Gottdiener J, et al. Frailty in older adults: evidence for a phenotype. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001;56(3):M146-57. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146
https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.3.M146...
,1717. Llibre JJ, López AM, Valhuerdi A, Guerra M, Llibre-Guerra JJ, Sánchez YY, et al. Frailty, dependency and mortality predictors in a cohort of Cuban older adults, 2003-2011. MEDICC Rev. 2014;16(1):24-30.,2424. Vieira RA, Guerra RO, Giacomin KC, Vasconcelos KSS, Andrade ACS, Pereira LSM, et al. Prevalência de fragilidade e fatores associados em idosos comunitários de Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil: dados do estudo FIBRA. Cad Saude Publica. 2013;29(8):1631-43. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00126312
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0012631...
.

The use of EFS also allowed us to stratify the levels of frailty and to identify those who are considered as apparently vulnerable, also called pre-frailty, who are at high risk of evolving to a status of frailty. The values estimated in this research corroborate the data available in the literature77. Duarte MCS, Fernandes MGM, Rodrigues RAP, Nóbrega MML. Prevalência e fatores sociodemográficos associados à fragilidade em mulheres idosas. Rev Bras Enferm. 2013;66(6):901-6. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-71672013000600014
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-7167201300...
,88. Fabrício-Wehbe SCC, Schiaveto FV, Vendrusculo TRP, Haas VJ, Dantas RAS, Rodrigues RAP. Adaptação cultural e validade da Edmonton Frail Scale - EFS em uma amostra de idosos brasileiros. Rev Latino-Am Enfermagem. 2009;17(6):1043-9. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-11692009000600018
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-1169200900...
,1010. Fhon JRS, Diniz MA, Leonardo KC, Kusumota L, Haas VJ, Rodrigues RAP. Síndrome de fragilidade relacionada à incapacidade funcional no idoso. Acta Paul Enferm. 2012;25(4):589-94. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-21002012005000016
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-2100201200...
. Although the apparently vulnerable group is the one most at risk of progressing to frailty, we need to consider that the course and the development of this syndrome are extremely variable and affected by the complex network in which the individual is placed. This condition is reversible, especially in the early stages, and even in more advanced stages, the reduction of the severity of the condition can also be achieved, allowing benefits for the older adult, family, society, and social and health systems33. Buckinx F, Rolland Y, Reginster JY, Ricour C, Petermans J, Bruyère O. Burden of frailty in the elderly population: perspectives for a public health challenge. Arch Public Health. 2015;73(1):19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-x
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-015-0068-...
,44. Cesari M, Prince M, Thiyagarajan JA, Carvalho IA, Bernabei R, Chan P, et al. Frailty: an emerging public health priority. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2016;17(3):188-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12.016
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2015.12....
,a a World Health Organization. World report on ageing and health. Geneva: WHO; 2015 [cited 2017 Apr 20]. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/186463/1/9789240694811_eng.pdf .

This research was conducted with high methodological rigor. We took the necessary precautions in the sampling process and similar results were pointed out in the literature77. Duarte MCS, Fernandes MGM, Rodrigues RAP, Nóbrega MML. Prevalência e fatores sociodemográficos associados à fragilidade em mulheres idosas. Rev Bras Enferm. 2013;66(6):901-6. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-71672013000600014
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-7167201300...
,88. Fabrício-Wehbe SCC, Schiaveto FV, Vendrusculo TRP, Haas VJ, Dantas RAS, Rodrigues RAP. Adaptação cultural e validade da Edmonton Frail Scale - EFS em uma amostra de idosos brasileiros. Rev Latino-Am Enfermagem. 2009;17(6):1043-9. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-11692009000600018
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0104-1169200900...
,1010. Fhon JRS, Diniz MA, Leonardo KC, Kusumota L, Haas VJ, Rodrigues RAP. Síndrome de fragilidade relacionada à incapacidade funcional no idoso. Acta Paul Enferm. 2012;25(4):589-94. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-21002012005000016
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-2100201200...
. Considering the use of sample weights, even if the sample were to be expanded, little variation would exist for the parameters estimated in this study.

The use of the EFS is still incipient in Brazil and the main limitations of this study are associated with the history of fragility in the adaptation of the EFS to the Brazilian context and the use of the clock test, even as an integral part of the EFS, in populations with low education level.

With the demographic and epidemiological changes, we need to understand the health dynamics of the older population and how this relationship occurs at the individual and social levels, as well as in relation to the health and social systems. The WHOa a World Health Organization. World report on ageing and health. Geneva: WHO; 2015 [cited 2017 Apr 20]. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/186463/1/9789240694811_eng.pdf advocates the realignment of health systems, focusing on Primary Health Care, identification of the special needs of frail older adults, and changes that allow the sustainability of these systems. It also warns about the importance of recognizing frailty as a public priority.

Based on this perspective and the assumptions present in the Brazilian Health Reform, we consider the EFS as a particularly useful instrument for the systematic tracking and management of frailty in community-dwelling older adults; therefore, the EFS would fit into the context of Primary Health Care. It is an instrument compatible with the reality of the Brazilian system and it brings central and structural issues for the SUS in its concept, such as expanded conception of health, interdisciplinarity, and multidimensional approach. These characteristics allow the EFS to contribute with the universality, equity, and integrality of the care of the older adult.

The recognition of the most vulnerable groups and the understanding of the factors associated with frailty, considering their multifactorial nature, are primordial tools for the elaboration and implementation of actions and strategies of health prevention, rehabilitation, and promotion. They can also be used to plan health care models, which address the main problems that affect the older population.

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    Woods NF, LaCroix AZ, Gray SL, Aragaki A, Cochrane BB, Brunner RL, et al. Frailty: emergence and consequences in women aged 65 and older in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. J Am Geriatr Soc 2005; 53(8):1321-30. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2005.53405.x
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  • Funding: National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq – Process 480163/2012-0, and productivity sponsorship for ICGL, Process 301101/2016-7).

History

  • Received
    13 Apr 2016
  • Accepted
    5 Oct 2016
  • Online publication
    17 Nov 2017
  • Issue publication
    2017
Faculdade de Saúde Pública da Universidade de São Paulo São Paulo - SP - Brazil
E-mail: revsp@org.usp.br