Subclinical Thyroid Dysfunction and Frailty Among Older Men

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Both subclinical thyroid dysfunction and frailty are common among older individuals, but data on the relationship between these 2 conditions are conflicting.


The purpose of this study was to assess the cross-sectional and prospective associations between subclinical thyroid dysfunction and frailty and the 5 frailty subdomains (sarcopenia, weakness, slowness, exhaustion, and low activity).

Setting and Design:

The Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study is a prospective cohort study.


Men older than 65 years (n = 1455) were classified into 3 groups of thyroid status: subclinical hyperthyroidism (n = 26, 1.8%), subclinical hypothyroidism (n = 102, 7.0%), and euthyroidism (n = 1327, 91.2%).

Main Outcome Measures:

Frailty was defined using a slightly modified Cardiovascular Health Study Index: men with 3 or more criteria were considered frail, men with 1 to 2 criteria were considered intermediately frail, and men with no criteria were considered robust. We assessed the cross-sectional relationship between baseline thyroid function and the 3 categories of frailty status (robust/intermediate/frail) as well as the prospective association between baseline thyroid function and subsequent frailty status and mortality after a 5-year follow-up.


At baseline, compared with euthyroid participants, men with subclinical hyperthyroidism had an increased likelihood of greater frailty status (adjusted odds ratio, 2.48; 95% confidence interval, 1.15–5.34), particularly among men aged <74 years at baseline (odds ratio for frailty, 3.63; 95% confidence interval, 1.21–10.88). After 5 years of follow-up, baseline subclinical hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism were not consistently associated with overall frailty status or frailty components.


Among community-dwelling older men, subclinical hyperthyroidism, but not subclinical hypothyroidism, is associated with increased odds of prevalent but not incident frailty.

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