1 in 3 UK adults see frailty as an inevitable part of growing old, leading to fear of illness and dependence1


MAIDENHEAD, UK. Jul. 20, 2016 – The findings of a new survey of 2,25o people reveal the stark reality of ageing in the UK.  Almost a third of Britons mistakenly believe becoming thin and frail is an unavoidable part of growing old and many more fear a lack of independence (85 per cent) and personal injury (94 per cent).1  To help people stay healthy and maintain their independence as they age, more can be done – starting with addressing their muscle health at an earlier age.

The survey, commissioned by Abbott and supported by The Patients Association, found: 

  • 85 per cent of people worry most about not being able to care for themselves if they became frail; experiencing a poor quality of life, susceptibility to illness and fear of falling over were amongst the other top concerns.1
  • For those who view frailty as a normal part of ageing, suffering some type of personal injury is considered to be inevitable for 94 per cent, including broken bones or fractures and joint problems in later life.1
  • Those over the age of 65 who are already experiencing the physical signs of muscle loss said the top three most challenging aspects of ageing are being less physically active, a lack of endurance and stamina and a general lack of energy.1

Muscle loss is more than a cosmetic issue

The research reveals a stark gap between the reality and expectation of how body strength changes with age.  While losing muscle with age is inevitable, 90 per cent of respondents failed to recognise that muscle loss starts as early as 40, with nearly a quarter believing it does not occur until the age of 60 or over.1 As a consequence the serious signs of muscle loss are simply being dismissed as part of “getting older” when, in reality, they can signal a serious medical issue.

Worryingly, this acceptance of frailty means that if an elderly relative became more thin and frail, 39 per cent would either take no action or would ‘wait and see’ before doing anything; less than half would speak to their relative’s doctor.

“Old age should be a time to be enjoyed not endured and the idea that you have to sacrifice your independence or suffer harm is a real concern,” says Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association. “It’s not ageing itself which brings about frailty, but the fact that people are no longer active enough and may not be getting the right nutrition. It’s important for people to understand that, if a loved one is becoming increasingly frail and thin, this should not be ignored and written off to the passage of time. Those looking after older people in the community need to undertake regular holistic assessments of their needs and be mindful of malnutrition.”

The right nutrition helps slow down muscle loss

Kelly Grainger, Head of Dietetics and Therapies, Leaders in Oncology Care, London emphasises the role of nutrition as people age: “Getting the right nutrition is especially important as we age as it can help to prevent and slow down muscle loss.  We shouldn’t accept muscle loss and frailty as an inevitable part of ageing as it can have serious health consequences, including longer recovery times, higher chances of complications or even death for people who are malnourished.” 

Figures suggest that 3 million+ people in the UK are affected by malnutrition2 and 1 in 3 adults who are admitted into hospital are malnourished3. Despite this, according to the survey, three quarters of people over 65 who were recovering from a recent health event were not given any nutritional support either while in hospital or after discharge.1

Perhaps it’s not surprising therefore that, one year later, a quarter (26 per cent) reported that they still have not recovered from their illness and nearly a third of those who were still recovering from an illness had still not regained their appetite after being discharged from hospital.1

“For people who are ill, the goal is to regain health and independence,” says Carole Glencorse, Medical Director for Abbott’s nutrition business in Europe, Middle East and Africa. "With the appropriate nutritional support, which can include the use of oral nutritional supplements, overall recovery can be significantly improved, allowing people to get back to doing the things they love, regardless of their age”.

One of the first steps to ensure people get the nutritional support they need is to screen for signs of malnutrition. Friends, family and neighbours all need to be able to spot the signs in frail older adults and take action. The I-CARE Checklist was developed by Abbott, with the support of the Patients Association, to help people do this:

The I-CARE Checklist

I = I will check:

C = Clothing - weight loss can be a sign of malnutrition, so look at clothing. Is it loose or ill-fitting? This could be a sign they’re not eating properly.

A = Appetite - loss of appetite is key. Are they eating less? Do they make excuses about not being hungry? With weight loss, dentures can become loose and ill-fitting making it harder to eat, so watch out for this too.

R = Rings - jewellery can often become ill fitting with weight loss. Keep an eye on items, such as wedding rings, that people may have worn for years suddenly becoming loose.

E = Energy - with lack of food, appetite and weight loss, can also come a lack of energy. Do they seem more lethargic or struggle to keep up in a way they never used to?

The I-CARE Checklist can be downloaded from www.abbottnutrition.co.uk/nutrition-and-you/i-care/

Notes to editor:

Oral nutritional supplements are a cost-effective way to manage malnutrition. 4,5 A recent study demonstrates that malnourished patients with lung or heart disease who received a specialised oral nutritional supplement (ONS) showed improvements in body weight and nutritional status and had a 50% lower death rate three months after discharge from hospital, compared with those who drank a placebo.6*

About The Patients Association:

The Patients Association is an independent national health and social care charity established over 52 years ago, which has a long history of campaigning to ensure that the voice of patients is heard within the UK Health and Social care system.

About Abbott:

At Abbott, we’re committed to helping you live your best possible life through the power of health. For more than 125 years, we’ve brought new products and technologies to the world - in nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices and branded generic pharmaceuticals - that create more possibilities for more people at all stages of life. Today, 74,000 of us are working to help people live not just longer, but better, in the more than 150 countries we serve.

Connect with us at www.abbott.co.uk, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Abbott and on Twitter @AbbottNews and @AbbottGlobal.


*Results show no significant differences between the two groups for the primary composite (i.e. combined) endpoint of 90 day hospital readmissions or death.


1.Data on file. Abbott Laboratories Ltd., 2016 (Online survey: Frailty in old age).

2.BAPEN, 2010: http://www.bapen.org.uk/pdfs/toolkit-for-commissioners.pdf Accessed 30th June 2016.

3.BAPEN, 2014: http://www.bapen.org.uk/pdfs/nsw/bapen-nsw-uk.pdf  Accessed 30th June2016.

4.Elia M et al. Clin Nutr 2016; http://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(15)00142-9/pdf

5.Elia M et al. Clin Nutr 2016; http://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(15)00191-0/pdf

6.Deutz NE et al. Clin Nutr 2016; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2015.12.01



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