European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 323–334 | Cite as

Social frailty in older adults: a scoping review

  • S. Bunt
  • N. Steverink
  • J. Olthof
  • C. P. van der Schans
  • J. S. M. Hobbelen


Social frailty is a rather unexplored concept. In this paper, the concept of social frailty among older people is explored utilizing a scoping review. In the first stage, 42 studies related to social frailty of older people were compiled from scientific databases and analyzed. In the second stage, the findings of this literature were structured using the social needs concept of Social Production Function theory. As a result, it was concluded that social frailty can be defined as a continuum of being at risk of losing, or having lost, resources that are important for fulfilling one or more basic social needs during the life span. Moreover, the results of this scoping review indicate that not only the (threat of) absence of social resources to fulfill basic social needs should be a component of the concept of social frailty, but also the (threat of) absence of social behaviors and social activities, as well as (threat of) the absence of self-management abilities. This conception of social frailty provides opportunities for future research, and guidelines for practice and policy.


Social frailty Social vulnerability Scoping review Social needs 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Group Healthy Ageing, Allied Health Care and NursingHanze University of Applied SciencesGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, University Medical Center GroningenUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Sociology, Faculty of Behavioural and Social SciencesUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Health Sciences, University Medical Center GroningenUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Amsterdam Institute for Social Science ResearchUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Research Group RehabilitationHanze University of Applied SciencesGroningenThe Netherlands
  7. 7.Department of General Practice and Elderly Care Medicine, University Medical Center GroningenUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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