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BACKGROUND: Older people with more negative attitudes to ageing are at increased risk of several adverse outcomes, including decline in physical function and increased difficulties with activities of daily living. OBJECTIVE: We investigated whether negative attitudes to ageing increase the risk of the onset or progression of frailty. METHOD: Participants were 3,505 men and women aged 60 years and over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. They completed a 12-item questionnaire on attitudes to ageing. Exploratory factor analysis was used to examine the structure of these items, and a single factor was derived which we labelled "physical and psychological loss." Frailty was assessed by the Fried phenotype of physical frailty at waves 2 and 4, and by a frailty index at waves 2-5. RESULTS: Having a more positive attitude to ageing as regards "physical and psychological loss" was associated with a decreased risk of becoming physically frail or pre-frail at follow-up. For a standard deviation increment in score, the relative risk ratios (95% confidence interval), adjusted for age, sex and baseline level of physical frailty, were 0.86 (0.79, 0.94) for pre-frailty and 0.72 (0.63, 0.83) for frailty. Further adjustment for other potential confounding variables had only slight attenuating effects on these associations: multivariable-adjusted relative risk ratios were 0.89 (0.81, 0.98) for pre-frailty and 0.78 (0.68, 0.91) for frailty. Attitude to ageing was not associated with change in the frailty index over time after adjustment for potential confounding variables. CONCLUSION: Older people who have a more positive attitude to ageing are at reduced risk of becoming physically frail or pre-frail. Future research needs to replicate this finding and discover the underlying mechanisms. Attitude to ageing was not a risk factor for change in the more broadly defined frailty index.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





58 - 66


Attitudes to ageing, Cohort, Frailty, Longitudinal study, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Attitude to Health, England, Female, Frail Elderly, Frailty, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Middle Aged, Multivariate Analysis, Risk Factors, Surveys and Questionnaires