Study: Feelings of Fatigue Predict Early Death in Older Adults

Glynn added that other than tying high fatigability to an earlier death, the study demonstrates the value of the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale, which was created in 2014.

New research indicates that feelings of fatigue after performing activities can be an indicator of earlier mortality among older people, according to a study from the University of Pittsburgh.

Older adults who scored the highest in terms of how tired or exhausted they would feel after activities were more than twice as likely to die in the following 2.7 years compared to their counterparts who scored lower.

"This is the time of year when people make—and break—New Year's resolutions to get more physical activity," said lead study author Nancy W. Glynn, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health, in a press release. "I hope our findings provide some encouragement to stick with exercise goals. Previous research indicates that getting more physical activity can reduce a person's fatigability. Our study is the first to link more severe physical fatigability to an earlier death. Conversely, lower scores indicate greater energy and more longevity."

Glynn and colleagues administered the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale to 2906 participants, 60 years of age and older, in the Long Life Family Study, which is an international evaluation following family members across 2 generations. Participants were ranked from 0 to 5 on how tired they thought or imagined they would become from performing certain activities, such as a leisurely 30-minute walk, light housework, or heavy gardening.

The follow-up for this work concluded at the end of 2019 to avoid any increased mortality impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, which gave the team an average of 2.7 years of data on each participant. After looking at a variety of factors that influence mortality, the team found that participants who scored 25 points or higher on the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale were 2.3 times more likely to die in the 2.7 years after completing the scale compared to their counterparts who scored below 25.

"There has been research showing that people who increase their physical activity can decrease their fatigability score," Glynn said in the press release. "And one of the best ways to increase physical activity—which simply means moving more—is by setting manageable goals and starting a routine, like a regular walk or scheduled exercise."

Glynn added that other than tying high fatigability to an earlier death, the study demonstrates the value of the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale, which was created in 2014.

"While the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale has been widely adopted in research as a reliable, sensitive way to measure fatigability, it is underutilized in hospital settings and clinical trials," Glynn said in the press release. "My ultimate goal is to develop a physical activity intervention targeting a reduction in fatigability as a means to stem the downward spiral of impaired physical function common with the aging process. By reducing fatigability, one can change how they feel, potentially motivating them to do more."

REFERENCE

Feelings of fatigue predict early death in older adults. ScienceDaily. January 24, 2022. Accessed January 26, 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/01/220124084616.htm

Related Content