Frailty and disability in Ireland, North and South

27th November 2014, CARDI

Ms Siobhan Scarlett, Trinity College Dublin Dr Bellinda L King-Kallimanis, Trinity College Dublin Professor Ian Young, Queen’s University Belfast Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Trinity College Dublin Dr Matthew DL O’Connell, Trinity College Dublin

Older people in Northern Ireland are three times more likely to be frail than those in the Republic of Ireland,  a study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast has found. The study also found that women and those from lower socio-economic groups in both countries are more likely to be frail.

The findings of the study led by Dr Matthew O’Connell (TCD) and funded by CARDI, are based on analysis of data from the Health Survey Northern Ireland and the first wave of data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA).

The results show the prevalence of frailty in older people is significantly higher in Northern Ireland and highlight that frailty is a strong predictor of disability in older age. Rates of disability in older people in Northern Ireland are almost twice those in the Republic of Ireland. The study finds that rates of frailty increase with age and that women are more likely to be frail than men. It also finds frailty is higher for older people in lower socio-economic groups.

Key Findings:

  • The prevalence of frailty among people aged 60+ in NI (21%) is much higher than in ROI (7%).
  • Among people aged 60-64, the rates of limiting disability are 43% in NI and 25% in ROI. In the 80+ group, 54% in NI and 29% in ROI have a limiting disability.
  • Women are more likely to be frail than men: 22% compared with 19% in NI and 7% compared with 6% in ROI.
  • Prevalence of frailty rises with age. In NI 16% of people aged 60-64 are frail and 36% aged 80+. In ROI 3% of 60-64 year olds and 15% of those aged 80+ are frail.
  • In NI 17% of people aged 60+ in high social class are frail, as are 29% of those in low social class. In ROI only 3% of high social class are frail compared with 10% in low social class.

Read the research brief here.