Studies Show How Death In Older Adults May Be Predicted With Early Onset Of High-Level Fatigue


Experts say that fatigue may be a sign of an underlying health issue, especially if the condition does not improve with the help of rest and good nutrition.

Researchers looked into activities such as walking, light housework, or heavy gardening and studied how these make older folks feel fatigued. This possibly may be a predictor of how likely they will die in the next few years. This was researched in a new study.

The research that they made was published on January 24 in The Journal of Gerontology. This was the first paper that was able to establish higher levels of perceived physical fatigability serving as indicator to earlier death. This was explained by the study’s lead author, Nancy W. Glynn, PhD. She is also an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health in Pittsburgh. She spoke in a release and said, “Conversely, lower scores indicate greater energy and more longevity.”


Fatigue and It’s Exact Meaning

Fatigue should not be mistaken with the feeling of drowsiness. Rather, feeling fatigue is about being tired or having the lack of energy and motivation to engage in activities. It also must be noted that drowsiness and apathy may at times go with fatigue. This was according to StatPearls.

While fatigue is an extremely normal response to stress or a hard day of work or play, it can also be a sign of something more, such as an underlying health issue. You’ll be more aware of this if you see that the condition doesn’t improve even with plenty of rest or with good nutrition.


Participants’ Report on Feelings of Fatigue After Walking, Gardening, or Watching TV

Measuring fatigue has been quite challenging for researchers. Years ago, this was deemed nearly impossible because the whole process would be costly. More importantly, this would require an in-person visit and dedicated space and staff to properly monitor the patient.

In order to standardize the definition of fatigue and to lower costs as well, the researchers from the University of Pittsburgh developed the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale last 2011. The 10-item scale has also been validated in studies made subsequently. This was their method to accurately capture physical and mental tiredness in a person.

The researchers wanted to discover if there was a link between reported fatigue and mortality. In order to do so, they recruited a total of 2,906 people. These participants were enrolled in the Long Life Family Study, which is an international study that keeps a close eye on family members across two generations. The mean age of participants was 73.5 years old, where 54.2 percent of them were women, and 99.7 percent of them were white.

They were asked to fill out the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale. This asked them to give ratings on how much physical and mental fatigue they experience after engaging in activities like walking, light housework, watching television, hiking or biking, and hosting a social event. The numbers were scaled from 0, which meant that there was no fatigue to 5, which meant extreme fatigue. The scores may range from 0 to 50. The higher score also meant higher fatigability.


Those Who Experienced More Fatigue Were More Likely to Die Within a Span of 2.7 Years

The different participants were monitored for an average of 2.7 years until the end of 2019. This means that they were able to avoid such as increased mortality that was brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers also controlled several factors that could contribute to the likelihood of death. Included in the list are depression, preexisting or underlying terminal illness, age, and gender. What they saw was that those who scored the highest level of reported fatigue (this meant 25 or higher) were more than twice as likely to die during the follow-up period. This was compared to those who had less fatigue (or participants with a score lower than 25).

“There has been research showing that people who increase their physical activity can decrease their fatigability score,” shared Dr. Glynn. She is a physical activity epidemiologist. She further said, “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 also took note of the fact that this is the time of the year when people make and break resolutions to engage in more activities. “I hope our findings provide some encouragement to stick with exercise goals,” she had mentioned.


Exercise – It’s Never Too Late to Start a Fitness or Health Routine

Adults over the 65 can safely exercise. In fact, doctors advise them to do so even if they suffer from a chronic illness.  American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), physical activities always do more good than bad for anyone. Hence, if you haven’t exercised or have been active for a good amount of time, you can check with your doctor first. This is more crucial if you suffer from a health condition and you’re not sure of what to do.

What type of exercise is most recommended: Experts break down four types:

  • Endurance activities that include walking or dancing
  • Strength training that include the use of body weight or a resistance band
  • Balance moves such as standing on one foot
  • Flexibility that can be enhanced by practicing yoga or stretching

Current guidelines have been made by experts and many of them recommend to those over the age of 65 get at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise. They can walk to do this. If they prefer, shorter but more rigorous workouts such as jogging, they can do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes of this on a weekly basis. It’s also best to incorporate strength training at least two days a week while practicing very short activities that require balance and flexibility each day. With this, life span may increase while making sure the person also stays mentally and physically healthy.