Frailty and physical performance in the context of extreme poverty: a population-based study of older adults in rural Burkina Faso

Miles D Witham, Justine Davies, Till Bärnighausen, Mamadou Bountogo, Jennifer Manne-Goehler, Collin F Payne, Lucienne Ouermi, Ali Sie, Mark J Siedner, Guy Harling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
167 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Little is known about the prevalence of frailty and about normal values for physical performance among older individuals in low-income countries, in particular those in sub-Saharan Africa. We describe the prevalence of phenotypic frailty, and values and correlates of several physical performance measures in a cohort of middle-aged and older people living in rural Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest communities.
Methods: We analysed data collected from participants aged over 40 in Nouna district, Burkina Faso. We measured handgrip strength, four metre walk speed, chair rise time, and derived the Fried frailty score based on grip strength, gait speed, body mass index, self-reported exhaustion, and physical activity. Frailty and physical performance indicators were then correlated with health and sociodemographic variables including comorbid disease, marital status, age, sex, wealth and activity impairment.
Results: Our sample included 2973 individuals (1503 women), mean age 54 years. 1207 (43%) were categorised as non-frail, 1324 (44%) as prefrail, 212 (7%) as frail, and 167 (6%) were unable to complete all five frailty score components. Lower grip strength, longer chair stand time, lower walk speed and prevalence of frailty rose with age. Frailty was more common in women than men (8% vs 6%, p=0.01) except in those aged 80 and over. Frailty was strongly associated with impairment of activities of daily living and with lower wealth, being widowed, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and self-reported diagnoses of tuberculosis or heart disease. With the exception of grip strength, which was higher in women than prior international normative values, women had greater deficits than men in physical performance.
Conclusions: Phenotypic frailty and impaired physical performance were associated as expected with female sex, co-morbidities, increasing age and impaired activities of daily living. These results support the use of frailty measurements for classification of ageing related syndromes in this setting.
Frailty, physical performance, prevalence, activities of daily living, sub-Saharan Africa
Original languageEnglish
Article number135
JournalWellcome Open Research
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

Article submitted for open peer review, this version is: version 1; peer review: 1 approved.


  • Frailty
  • physical performance
  • prevalence
  • activities of daily living
  • sub-Saharan Africa


Dive into the research topics of 'Frailty and physical performance in the context of extreme poverty: a population-based study of older adults in rural Burkina Faso'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this