Study: Smoking linked to frailty in older adults

Researchers have found an association between current smoking habits in older adults and an increased risk of developing frailty as they age.


Frailty is associated with decreased physiological reserve and increased vulnerability to adverse health outcomes, and is considered a precursor to disability.

The study, published today in Age & Aging, examined the association of smoking, which increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease with the risk of developing frailty.

Researchers defined frailty for the study by using a combination of five physical frailty components such as unintentional weight loss, weakness, self-reported exhaustion, slow walking speed and low physical activity.

The study consisted of 2,542 participants age 60 and older in Britain with half being smokers and half non-smokers. The non-smokers were divided into two additional groups, past smokers and never smokers. The past smokers were then divided into those who quit within the last 10 years and those who quit more than 10 years ago.

The researchers found current smoking was linked to a 60 percent increased risk of developing frailty.

“Current smokers compared with non-smokers were significantly more likely to develop frailty over 4 years among British community-dwelling older people,” researchers wrote in the study. “This result is in line with findings of a recent systematic review. Given that smoking is a modifiable lifestyle factor, smoking cessation may potentially prevent or delay developing frailty, even in old age.”

By Amy Wallace