Differences in frailty in older men and women

Emily H Gordon and Ruth E Hubbard
Med J Aust 2020; 212 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50466
Published online: 27 January 2020


  • Frailty describes an individual's vulnerability to adverse health outcomes and is a useful construct that assists health professionals to understand the heterogeneity of the ageing population.
  • While the pathophysiological pathways that lead to frailty are not well defined, an individual's sex appears to be a key factor influencing the ageing trajectory.
  • Compared with age‐matched men, women tend to have poorer health status (ie, they are more frail) but longer life expectancy (ie, they are more resilient). It seems likely that a combination of biological, behavioural and social factors underpin this male–female health–survival paradox.
  • Randomised controlled trial data for frailty interventions in older adults are emerging, with multicomponent programs incorporating exercise and nutrition‐based strategies showing promise. Pharmaceutical and other innovative therapeutic strategies for frailty are highly anticipated.
  • Sex differences in the effectiveness of frailty interventions have not been addressed in the research literature to date. In the future, successful interventions may target many (if not all) biopsychosocial domains, with careful consideration of issues relevant to each sex.

  • Centre for Health Services Research, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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