Frailty trajectories and associated factors in the years prior to death: evidence from 14 countries in the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe

Natalie D. Jenkins, Miles Welstead, Lucy Stirland, Emiel O. Hoogendijk, Joshua J. Armstrong, Annie Robitaille, Graciela Muniz-Terrera

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Age-related changes in frailty have been documented in the literature. However, the evidence regarding changes in frailty prior to death is scarce. Understanding patterns of frailty progression as individuals approach death could inform care and potentially lead to interventions to improve individual?s well-being at the end of life. In this paper, we estimate the progression of frailty in the years prior to death. Methods: Using data from 8,317 deceased participants of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe, we derived a 56-item Frailty Index. In a coordinated analysis of repeated measures of the frailty index in 14 countries, we fitted growth curve models to estimate trajectories of frailty as a function of distance to death controlling both the level and rate of frailty progression for age, sex, years to death and dementia diagnosis. Results: Across all countries, frailty before death progressed linearly. In 12 of the 14 countries included in our analyses, women had higher levels of frailty close to the time of death, although they progressed at a slower rate than men (e.g. Switzerland (-0.008, SE = 0.003) and Spain (-0.004, SE = 0.002)). Older age at the time of death and incident dementia were associated with higher levels and increased rate of change in frailty, whilst higher education was associated with lower levels of frailty in the year preceding death (e.g. Denmark (0.000, SE = 0.001)). Conclusion: The progression of frailty before death was linear. Our results suggest that interventions aimed at slowing frailty progression may need to be different for men and women. Further longitudinal research on individual patterns and changes of frailty is warranted to support the development of personalized care pathways at the end of life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalBMC geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Age-related changes
  • End of life care
  • Frailty trajectories
  • Longitudinal data
  • Mortality

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