Postal screening can identify frailty and predict poor outcomes in older adults: longitudinal data from INTER-FRAIL study

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Objective: identification of older individuals at risk for health-related adverse outcomes (HRAO) is necessary for population-based preventive interventions. Aim of this study was to improve a previously validated postal screening questionnaire for frailty in non-disabled older subjects and to test its prognostic validity in a vast sample of older community-dwellers.

Methods: individuals aged 70+ underwent a mass postal screening. Physical frailty phenotype (PFP) was assessed in the unselected subsample of the first responders. After a 1-year follow-up, HRAO were recorded in the whole sample, including survival, access to Emergency Department, hospitalisation and Long-Term Care admission.

Results: the questionnaire was mailed to 17,273 subjects, whose response rate was 55%. Among the first 1,037 responders without overt disability, the revised questionnaire was 75% sensitive and 69% specific for PFP (ROC 0.772). Non-disabled subjects who screened positive had a higher risk of HRAO in comparison with those who screened negative and similar to non-responders. Risk of adverse outcome was highest among disabled subjects.

Conclusions: a simple questionnaire delivered by mail has good accuracy in detecting PFP in non-disabled older subjects and is able to predict HRAO.

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