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Psychological distress and frailty transitions over time in community-dwelling older adults

  • J. E. McHugh (a1), M. Dowling (a1), A. Butler (a1) and B. A. Lawlor (a1)



Physical health and, in particular, frailty may be associated with psychological factors among older adults. We aimed to investigate the relationships between aspects of psychological distress and progression of frailty over time among older adults.


We used a longitudinal observational study design with 624 participants aged over 60 years (mean age=72.75, s.d.=7.21, 68% female) completing a baseline comprehensive biopsychosocial geriatric assessment, and 447 returning for a follow-up assessment 2 years later. Aspects of psychological distress, physical health, and frailty were analysed for the purposes of this study. We employed a series of logistic regression analyses to determine psychological predictors of changing states of aspects of frailty over time.


With individual components of frailty, neuroticism and age predicted negative transitions of exhaustion and grip strength, respectively, whereas age alone was a predictor of transitions in overall frailty scores based on four components.


We conclude that neuroticism and age may impact upon physical frailty and its progression over time in an ageing population. These findings may reflect the tendency for those with high levels of neuroticism to endorse negative symptoms, or alternatively, neuroticism may result in exhaustion via worry in an older population. Further research is required to further elucidate this relationship.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: J. E. McHugh, Room 3.10, Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) Centre, Institute of Neuroscience, St James’s Hospital & Trinity College, University of Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland. (Email:


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