Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Talking about frailty: health professional perspectives and an ideological dilemma

Cluley, Victoria; Martin, Graham; Radnor, Zoe; Banerjee, Jay

Talking about frailty: health professional perspectives and an ideological dilemma Thumbnail


Graham Martin

Zoe Radnor

Jay Banerjee


Frailty is increasingly used in clinical settings to describe a physiological state resulting from a combination of age-related co-morbidities. Frailty also has a strong 'lay' meaning that conjures a particular way of being. Recent studies have reported how frail older people perceive the term frailty, showing that frailty is often an unwanted and resisted label. While there are many scores and measures that clinicians can use to determine frailty, little has been published regarding how health-care professionals use and make sense of the term. This paper reports the findings of a qualitative study that explored how health professionals perceive frailty. Forty situated interviews were conducted with health-care professionals working in an emergency department in the English Midlands. The interview talk was analysed using discourse analysis. The findings show that the health professionals negotiate an 'ideological dilemma' - a tension between contradictory sets of meanings and consequences for action - based on their 'lay' and clinical experience of the term frailty. It is concluded that this dilemma could have a negative impact on the assessment of frailty depending on the system of assessment used.


Cluley, V., Martin, G., Radnor, Z., & Banerjee, J. (2022). Talking about frailty: health professional perspectives and an ideological dilemma. Ageing and Society, 42(1), 204-222.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 22, 2020
Online Publication Date Aug 12, 2020
Publication Date 2022-01
Deposit Date Jan 20, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 2, 2023
Journal Ageing and Society
Print ISSN 0144-686X
Electronic ISSN 1469-1779
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 1
Pages 204-222
Keywords Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health; Geriatrics and Gerontology; Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous); Social Psychology; Health (social science)
Public URL
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations