Frailty and Falls

Frailty and Falls

There is no official definition of frailty, yet. Research groups all over the world study and analyze the middle-age and elderly population health and lifestyle. Their research usually has several goals and is often focused on overall health issue the aging population is facing. Estimating the frailty prevalence, identifying risk factors for developing frailty, defining potential steps to prevent the onset of this syndrome and lessening its outcomes are often part of the research scope.

One of such studies was Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). SHARE was a multidisciplinary, cross-sectional, longitudinal study of community-dwelling middle-aged and elderly individuals in Europe. After the years of research and interviews with individuals 50+ years old, SHARE resulted in a database of micro data on health, socio-economic status, and social and family networks of more than 140 000 individuals. Researchers of the study authored hundreds of journal articles, tens of which are related to frailty.

Prevalence of Frailty

Some of the findings of the SHARE study were: in the population of 65+ years, the prevalence of frailty is 17%, and prevalence of pre-frailty is 42%; the prevalence of frailty among community-dwelling individuals is higher in the south of Europe (Spain, Italy, Greece) and is lower in the north (Sweden); women are more likely to suffer from frailty than men; and years of education have a negative effect on the probability of becoming frail.

Fall Incidents and Prevention

One of the most commonly experienced frailty syndromes is fall. In the 65+ years old population 3 out of 10 people fall each year, many of them more than once. These falls result in mild to severe injuries, ER visits, and hospitalization. Out of injury-related deaths, falls account for 40%.

In 2007 World Health Organization published a Global Report on Falls Prevention in Older Age, summarizing fall incidents, main risks for falling, fall outcomes (such as injuries, and fear), as well as prevention framework called ‘Active Ageing’.

Active Ageing

Active Ageing framework aims to provide strategies to prevent falls. It is based on several determinants influencing the health status and risk of falls in the elderly. These determinants include access to health and social services, behavioral aspects (e.g. physical activity, healthy eating), personal traits (attitude, fear of falling, coping with falling, etc.), social connection and inclusion, and economic status.

Active Ageing hopes to optimize opportunities for health, participation, and security, resulting in higher quality of life. It’s a lifelong process, starting in early age, which depends on lifestyle behavior as well as social and economic factors.

There is still a lot to be learned about frailty and a lot to be done in the prevention of falls in elderly populations. We believe that new technology and smart devices, such as a smartwatch, can positively influence the active aging process.

Please find the summary of findings on frailty and falls in the infographic below.


Sources:

Siriwardhana, D. D., Hardoon, S., Rait, G., Weerasinghe, M. C., & Walters, K. R. (2018). Prevalence of frailty and prefrailty among community-dwelling older adults in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ open8(3), e018195. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018195

WHO Global Report on Falls Prevention in Older Age, 2007, Available online: https://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Falls_prevention7March.pdf

Frailty Prevention Approach, 2018, Available online: http://advantageja.eu/images/FPA%20Core%20ADVANTAGE%20doc.pdf

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