Elderly people 'more likely' to be frail if they live in poorer areas

Living in deprived areas after the age of 40 leads to greater frailty, researchers from the University of Edinburgh said.

Elderly people more likely to be frail if they live in poorer areas, University of Edinburgh research says Getty Images

Those who spend part of their lives living in poor neighbourhoods are more likely to be frail in old age, a study has suggested.

Living in deprived areas after the age of 40 leads to greater frailty in both men and women, researchers from the University of Edinburgh said, while boys who live in poor neighbourhoods are more likely to be frail in later life as men.

Professor Jamie Pearce, of the university’s School of GeoSciences, said: “The findings of our research show that the types of places we live throughout our lives impacts on our health much later in life, including our level of frailty in older age.

“Identifying why living in a socially disadvantaged neighbourhood at different points during life translates into worse health outcomes offers an opportunity to enhance healthy ageing and reduce inequalities.”

Researchers said until now the long-term effect that living in poor neighbourhoods had on frailty – a condition which can make older people feel weak and reduce their ability to recovery from illness or injury – was poorly understood.

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The university team, led by the school’s Dr Gergo Baranyi, found that the more time men spent living in deprived areas during their childhood and mid-to-late adulthood, the greater the chances they would be frail by age 70.

And women living in poorer neighbourhoods in mid-to-late adulthood were more likely to become frailer more quickly after the age of 70, compared with women living in more affluent areas.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, used data from the Lothian Birth Cohort of 1936, a cohort of people born in 1936 and followed up with the aim of understanding how health, brains and thinking skills change throughout life.

Researchers examined data from 323 participants, and used statistical modelling to examine the links between where they lived, frailty and the speed at which their health declined.