BACKGROUND: Frailty is associated with COVID-19 severity in clinical settings. No general population-based studies on the association between actual frailty status and COVID-19 hospitalization are available.
AIMS: To investigate the association between frailty and the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization once infected.
METHODS: 440 older adults who participated in the Lifelines COVID-19 Cohort study in the Northern Netherlands and reported positive COVID-19 testing results (54.2% women, age 70 ± 4 years in 2021) were included in the analyses. COVID-19 hospitalization status was self-reported. The Groningen Frailty Indicator (GFI) was derived from 15 self-reported questionnaire items related to daily activities, health problems, and psychosocial functioning, with a score ≥ 4 indicating frailty. Both frailty and COVID-19 hospitalization were assessed in the same period. Poisson regression models with robust standard errors were used to analyze the associations between frailty and COVID-19 hospitalization.
RESULTS: Of 440 older adults included, 42 were hospitalized because of COVID-19 infection. After adjusting for sociodemographic and lifestyle factors, a higher risk of COVID-19 hospitalization was observed for frail individuals (risk ratio (RR) [95% CI] 1.97 [1.06-3.67]) compared to those classified as non-frail.
DISCUSSION: Frailty was positively associated with COVID-19 hospitalization once infected, independent of sociodemographic and lifestyle factors. Future research on frailty and COVID-19 should consider biomarkers of aging and frailty to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms and manifestations between frailty and COVID-19 outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS: Frailty was positively associated with the risk of hospitalization among older adults that were infected with COVID-19. Public health strategies for frailty prevention in older adults need to be advocated, as it is helpful to reduce the burden of the healthcare system, particularly during a pandemic like COVID-19.
- Groningen Frailty Indicator
- older adults