Frailty but not sarcopenia nor malnutrition increases the risk of developing COVID-19 in older community-dwelling adults

Laetitia Lengelé, Médéa Locquet, Michel Moutschen, Charlotte Beaudart, Jean François Kaux, Sophie Gillain, Jean Yves Reginster, Olivier Bruyère

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Background: The identification of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) risk factors is requested to implement prevention strategies. Aim: To explore the associations between the COVID-19 incidence and malnutrition, sarcopenia, and frailty, identified as potential risk factors in previous cross-sectional studies. Methods: Malnutrition, sarcopenia, and frailty were assessed at the last available follow-up from the Sarcopenia and Physical Impairments with Advancing Age (SarcoPhAge) cohort (i.e., the fifth year that ended in 2019) according to the Mini-Nutritional Assessment short-form, the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People (EWGSOP2), and the Fried criteria, respectively. Information regarding the COVID-19 was gathered by phone calls interviews in April 2021 to measure its self-declared incidence. Adjusted Cox regressions and Kaplan–Meier curves were performed. Results: The present study included 241 participants [median age 75.6 (73.0–80.6) years, 63.1% women]. Among them, 27 participants (11.2%) developed the non-fatal Covid-19. No significant increased risks of COVID-19 were observed in patients with malnutrition [adjusted HR 1.14 (0.26–5.07)] and sarcopenia [adjusted HR 1.25 (0.35–4.42)]. Nevertheless, the incidence of COVID-19 was significantly higher in frail (44.4%) than in robust participants (8.5%) [Adjusted HR 7.01 (2.69–18.25)], which was confirmed by the Kaplan–Meier curves (p < 0.001). Among the frailty syndrome components, a low physical activity level was the only one significantly associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 [adjusted HR 5.18 (1.37–19.54)]. Conclusion: Despite some limitations in the methodology of this study (i.e., limited sample size, COVID-19 incidence self-reported and not assessed systematically using objective measurements) requiring careful consideration, an increased risk to develop COVID-19 was observed in the presence of the frailty syndrome. Further investigations are needed to elaborate on our findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-234
Number of pages12
JournalAging Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Frailty
  • Malnutrition
  • Sarcopenia
  • SarcoPhAge


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