Study Shows Link Between Social Frailty and Depression

June 21, 2018

Depression and frailty are both common among older adults. A study in the June issue of JAMDA shows that social frailty—as opposed to physical frailty—is strongly associated with the incidence of depression in this population.

In “Social Frailty Has a Stronger Impact on the Onset of Depressive Symptoms than Physical Frailty or Cognitive Impairment: A 4-Year Follow-up Longitudinal Cohort Study,” researchers assessed 3,538 older adults in Japan in terms of frailty status—physical frailty, cognitive impairment, and social frailty—and depressive symptoms. Four years later, they assessed the same people for depressive symptoms. They found that 12% with depression also had social frailty, versus 5% without any frailty. This compared to 9.6% of those with depression and physical frailty and 9.3% of those with cognitive impairment and depression.

Social frailty was assessed against 5 components: going out less frequently compared with last year, visiting friends sometimes, feeling helpful to friends or family, living alone, and talking with someone every day. Participants showing none of these components were determined not to have social frailty, while those showing 2 or more components were considered to have fully developed social frailty.

 “Taking into account the negative impacts of depressive symptoms on both older adults themselves and our society, it may be important for medical professionals to develop interventions for older adults with social frailty to prevent them from developing depressive symptoms,” The authors said. “To build on this, further studies are required to determine if a causal association exists between social frailty and depressive symptoms.”

This study was conducted by researchers at the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Kagoshima University School of Health Sciences, and the J.F. Oberlin University Institute of Gerontology, all in Japan.

For more information on the findings above and more details about the study, click here. To contact the researchers or JAMDA editor for an interview, please email