Principal Advisor: Professor Ruth Hubbard


Phone: 0400 530 193

Organisational unit: Centre for Health Services Research

The proposed research activity will focus on frailty in adults with chronic mental health disorders. Serious mental illness affects around 5% of the adult population. It is associated with multiple medical comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, as well as with poorer functional status, weak muscle strength, and premature mortality. In older people, this constellation of poor health and increased risk of adverse outcomes can be quantified by measuring frailty status. The identification of frailty is important as frail patients can benefit from targeted interventions such as multi-disciplinary rehabilitation and holistic management by a geriatrician. To date, frailty has not been systematically studied in patients with serious mental illness. This PhD will include a secondary analysis of a dataset of patients with mental health disorders. The student will derive a frailty index for each patient and explore the relationships between frailty status and chronological age, mortality and measures of illness severity. In patients who present longitudinally, s/he will also evaluate how clinical interventions (such as ECT or medication changes) influence frailty trajectories. This program of work will create new knowledge, generating high impact publications. More importantly, a better understanding of frailty in this vulnerable population will provide a foundation for intervention studies.