Background: “Frailty” is an adverse, primarily gerontologic, health condition regarded as frequent with aging and having severe consequences. Although clinicians claim that the extremes of frailty can be easily recognized, a standardized definition of frailty has proved elusive until recently. This article evaluates the cross-validity, criterion validity, and internal validity in the Women’s Health and Aging Studies (WHAS) of a discrete measure of frailty recently validated in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS).
Methods: The frailty measure developed in CHS was delineated in the WHAS data sets. Using latent class analysis, we evaluated whether criteria composing the measure aggregate into a syndrome. We verified the criterion validity of the measure by testing whether participants defined as frail were more likely than others to develop adverse geriatric outcomes or to die.
Results: The distributions of frailty in the WHAS and CHS were comparable. In latent class analyses, the measures demonstrated strong internal validity vis à vis stated theory characterizing frailty as a medical syndrome. In proportional hazards models, frail women had a higher risk of developing activities of daily living (ADL) and/or instrumental ADL disability, institutionalization, and death, independently of multiple potentially confounding factors.
Conclusions: The findings of this study are consistent with the widely held theory that conceptualizes frailty as a syndrome. The frailty definition developed in the CHS is applicable across diverse population samples and identifies a profile of high risk of multiple adverse outcomes.