Mexican Americans and Frailty

Frailty can be a precursor to loss of independence, institutionalization and mortality. What factors—such as age, other ailments, ability to perform daily living activities and lower extremity functioning—might predict frailty?

Researchers followed 2,049 Mexican Americans in the Southwest for 10 years (follow-ups every 2 to 3 years). Participants were interviewed and examined in their homes.

Frailty was assessed by established criteria: weight loss, exhaustion, walking speed, grip strength and physical activity. Among other variables examined: sociodemographic factors, medical conditions, ability to perform instrumental activities of daily living, physical performance, mental state and depression.

Over the 10 years studied, 44 percent of participants died and others were lost to follow-up or had missing data, yielding 777 participants assessed at follow-up.

At the end of the study period, 75 percent of participants were frail or pre-frail. Of those identified as frail at baseline, 84 percent died by study end. Predictors of frailty that accounted for 29 percent of the variance in the frailty index: diabetes, arthritis, smoking status, body mass index, mental health exam scores, depression scores and number of comorbid conditions. Some of these variables are modifiable and with appropriate interventions could reduce frailty among Mexican American older adults.