Principles and issues for physical frailty measurement and its clinical application

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Introduction: “Frailty” has attracted attention for its promise of identifying vulnerable older adults, hence its potential use to better tailor geriatric health care. There remains substantial controversy, however, regarding its nature and ascertainment. Recent years have seen a proliferation of frailty assessment methods. We argue that the development of frailty assessments should be grounded in “validation”—the process of substantiating that a measurement accurately and precisely measures what it intends, identify unresolved measurement issues, and highlight measurement-related considerations for clinical practice. Methods: Principles for validating frailty measures are elucidated. We follow principles—articulated, for example, by Borsboom—in which a construct must be clearly defined and then analyses undertaken to substantiate that a measurement accurately and precisely measures what it intends. Key elements are content validity, criterion validity, and construct validity, with an emphasis on the latter. Results: We illustrate the principles for a physical frailty phenotype construct. Conclusions: Unresolved conceptual issues include the roles of intersecting concepts such as cognition, disease severity, and disability in frailty measurement, conceptualization of frailty as a state versus a continuum, and the potential need for dynamic measures and systems concepts in furthering understanding of frailty. Clinical considerations include needs to distinguish interventions designed to address frailty “symptoms” versus underlying physiology, improve “prefrailty” measures intended to screen individuals early in their frailty progression, address feasibility demands, and further visioning followed by rigorous efficacy research to address the landscape of potential uses of frailty assessment in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1107-1112
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


  • Biomarkers
  • Geriatric assessment
  • Outcomes
  • Validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Principles and issues for physical frailty measurement and its clinical application'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this