Little is known about the prospective association between community-level social capital and individual-level frailty onset. Therefore, this study aimed to examine the impact of community-level social capital on frailty onset among older adults using 3-year longitudinal data.
This prospective cohort study recruited non-institutionalised older adults from the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study, established in 2013 and robust older adults were followed up for 3 years. We assessed three aspects of community-level social capital (civic participation, social cohesion and reciprocity), and employed a multilevel logistic regression analysis; frailty was evaluated using the Kihon Checklist questionnaire, which has been widely used as a screening tool for frailty in Japan.
In total, 21 940 older adults (from 384 communities) who were robust at baseline (2013) completed the follow-up survey (2016). Participants’ mean age (SD) was 71.8 (4.9) years, and 51.2% were female. In the follow-up period, frailty onset occurred in 622 participants (2.8%). Regarding community-level social capital variables, civic participation was inversely associated with frailty onset (OR=0.94, 95% CI 0.90 to 0.97, p=0.001), after adjusting for individual-level and community-level covariates. The potential intermediate factors of individual social relationships and health behaviours did not largely change the results. This association was found regardless of individual socioeconomic status.
Living in a community with rich civic participation, such as engagement in social activities, was associated with lower frailty onset among older adults. Community development that fosters social participation is essential for frailty prevention.