BACKGROUND: Cognitive frailty has long been defined as the co-occurrence of mild cognitive deficits and physical frailty. However, recently, a new approach to cognitive frailty has been proposed: cognitive frailty as a distinct construct. Nonetheless, the relationship between this relatively new construct of cognitive frailty and other frailty domains is unclear.
OBJECTIVES: The aims of this study were to explore the prevalence of cognitive frailty in groups with different degrees of cognitive impairment, as well as to explore the associations between frailty domains, and if this varies with level of objective cognitive impairment.
METHOD: Cross-sectional, secondary data from 3 research projects among community-dwelling people aged ≥60 years, with different degrees of objective cognitive impairment, were used: (1) a randomly selected sample (n = 353); (2) a sample at an increased risk of frailty (n = 95); and (3) a sample of memory clinic patients who scored 0.5 on the Clinical Dementia Rating scale - according to the "original" definition of cognitive frailty (n = 47). Multidimensional frailty was assessed with the Comprehensive Frailty Assessment Instrument - Plus and general cognitive functioning with the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Descriptive statistics and linear regression were used to determine the prevalence of cognitive frailty and to explore the relationship between cognitive frailty and the other types of frailty in each sample.
RESULTS: The prevalence of cognitive frailty increased along with the degree of objective cognitive impairment in the 3 samples (range 35.1-80.9%), while its co-occurrence with (one of) the other types of frailty was most frequent in the frail and community samples. Regarding its relationship with the other domains, cognitive frailty was positively associated with psychological frailty's subdomain mood disorder symptoms in all 3 samples (p ≤ 0.01), while there was no significant association with environmental frailty and social loneliness. The associations between cognitive frailty and the other types of frailty differed between the samples.
CONCLUSION: Psychological and cognitive frailty are strongly associated, irrespective of the objective degree of cognitive impairment. In addition, it is shown that cognitive frailty can occur independently from the other frailty domains, including physical frailty, and therefore it can be seen as a distinct concept.