Older smokers more likely to become frail than non-smokers

Study shows that current smokers, aged 60 years or older, had a 60% greater odds of becoming frail during follow-up compared with non-smokers.

Older person smoking a cigarette

Smoking is the most preventable cause of morbidity and mortality, however evidence on the link between smoking in later life and frailty is limited.

In Age and Ageing (online, 17 August 2017), researchers examined data from 2,542 British people aged 60 years or older classified as either current smokers (261) or non-smokers (2,281), over four years[1]
. Frailty was defined according to modified Fried criteria.

They found that the current smokers had a 60% greater odds of becoming frail during follow-up compared with non-smokers, after adjustment for confounders. Further analysis indicated that this association was due largely to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which itself was associated with a 2.6-fold greater odds of incident frailty.

The researchers also observed that current smokers were, on the whole, younger, had a lower body mass index (BMI), were less educated, less wealthy and lonelier than non-smokers.

The researchers say that, as smoking is a modifiable lifestyle factor, stopping smoking could prevent or delay frailty in older people.


[1] Kojima G, Iliffe S, Jivraj S, et al. Does current smoking predict future frailty? The English longitudinal study of ageing. Age and Ageing 2017;0:1–6. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afx136

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, November 2017, Vol 9, No 11;9(11):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203679

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