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Frailty in aging and its influence on perceived stress exposure and stress-related symptoms: evidence from the Swiss Vivre/Leben/Vivere study

Abstract

Frailty is a core concept in understanding vulnerability and adjustment to stress in older adults. Adopting the perspective provided by the transactional model of stress and coping (Lazarus and Folkman in Stress, appraisal, and coping, Springer, New York, 1984), the present study examined three aspects of frailty in older adults: (1) the link between frailty and perceived stress exposure (PSE); (2) the link between frailty and stress-related symptoms (SRS); and (3) the role of frailty in the link between PSE and SRS. Participants were 2711 adults aged between 64 and 101 years who were taking part in the Swiss Vivre/Leben/Vivere study. As well as assessing frailty, we measured PSE and SRS during the 4 weeks preceding the administration of the questionnaires, together with the covariates age, sex, educational attainment, language of the canton, and type of canton (urban vs. rural). Regression analyses revealed higher levels of PSE in frail older adults than in non-frail older adults. In addition, frail older adults reported more SRS than non-frail older adults. As expected, the association between PSE and SRS differed as a function of the frailty status: The positive relation between PSE and SRS being stronger for frail older adults than for non-frail older adults. These results suggest that frailty is related to perceived discrepancy between resources and demands, and to ability to cope with PSE. Our findings have implications for interventions to help frail older adults manage stress.

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Notes

  1. The main difference is that the score we used contains two extra items measuring physical disorders. Several items were also reworded.

  2.  Two additional analyses performed separately for different age groups (the continuous age variable was recoded by assigning the value of 0 to either the younger-old or older-old group) showed that the relationship between PSE and SRS was stronger for younger-old adults for somatic symptoms – younger-old adults: β = .323, t (2686) = 11.966, p < .001; older-old adults: β = .176, t (2686) = 7.017, p < .001) and for anxiety and insomnia – younger-old adults: β = .485, t (2674) = 18.205, p < .001; older-old: β = .257, t (2674) = 10.449, p < .001). This was not the case for social dysfunction – younger-old adults: β = − .171, t (2627) = − 6.062, p < .001; older-old: β = − .176, t (2627) = − 6.831, p < .001.

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Acknowledgements

This publication benefited from the support of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES—Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives, which is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant Number: 51NF40-160590). The authors are grateful to the Swiss National Science Foundation for its financial assistance.

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Correspondence to Olivier Desrichard.

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Responsible editor: D. J. H. Deeg.

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Desrichard, O., Vallet, F., Agrigoroaei, S. et al. Frailty in aging and its influence on perceived stress exposure and stress-related symptoms: evidence from the Swiss Vivre/Leben/Vivere study. Eur J Ageing 15, 331–338 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-017-0451-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-017-0451-2

Keywords

  • Perceived stress exposure
  • Stress-related symptoms
  • Frailty
  • Vivre/Leben/Vivere study