Original Study| Volume 21, ISSUE 6, P780-785, June 2020

The Association between Frailty and Healthcare Expenditure among Chinese Older Adults



      The purpose of this study was to examine whether frailty could explain variability in healthcare expenditure beyond multimorbidity and disability among Chinese older adults.



      Setting and Participants

      Participants were 5300 community-dwelling adults age at least 60 years from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study.


      Frailty was identified by the physical frailty phenotype approach that has been created and validated among Chinese older adults. Five criteria were used: slowness, weakness, exhaustion, inactivity, and shrinking. Persons were classified as “nonfrail” (0 criteria), “prefrail” (1‒2 criteria), or “frail” (3‒5 criteria). Healthcare expenditure was measured based on participants’ self-report and was classified into 3 types: outpatient expenditure, inpatient expenditure, and self-treatment expenditure. The association of frailty and healthcare expenditure was analyzed using a 2-part regression model to account for excessive zero expenditures.


      Frailty was associated with higher odds of incurring outpatient, inpatient, and self-treatment expenditure. Among persons with non-zero expenditure, prefrail and frail persons, on average, had US $30.62 [95% confidence interval (CI) 8.41, 52.82] and US $60.60 (95% CI 5.84, 115.36) higher outpatient expenditure than the nonfrail, adjusting for sociodemographics, multimorbidity, and disability. After adjustment for all covariates, prefrail persons, on average, had US $3.34 (95% CI 0.54, 6.13) higher self-treatment expenditure than the nonfrail.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Frailty is an independent predictor of higher healthcare expenditure among older adults. These findings suggest that timely screening and recognition of frailty are important to reduce healthcare expenditure among older adults.


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