Is it correct to say

Feeble people are more at risk of flu-related complications.

to convey the idea that there are different levels of risk in the population at risk? I could have said old people instead of feeble people, but I would like to stay vague at this point. Is weak a better alternative for feeble?

  • How about 'some people' (or 'certain people')?
    – Řídící
    Feb 11, 2014 at 17:50
  • @GlenTheUdderboat: It might work, indeed. I would like to convey the idea of weakness, though.
    – user7064
    Feb 11, 2014 at 17:55
  • "Most infected people recover within one to two weeks without requiring medical treatment. However, in the very young, the elderly, and those with other serious medical conditions, infection can lead to severe complications of the underlying condition, pneumonia and death." This is the wording chosen here. I don't think there is a term for the combination of those at-risk groups (other than 'at-risk groups').
    – Řídící
    Feb 11, 2014 at 18:19
  • It sounds a bit tautologous; one could just as well say that people who are more at risk of flu-related complications are feeble. It hasn't really told me anything about what sort of people are at risk, unlike say "elderly, very young, and infirm people".
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 11, 2014 at 18:39
  • 2
    I was going to answer with "high-risk category" knowing full well that it isn't a single word until I saw frail. Someone in frail health is unambiguous.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 11, 2014 at 18:41

5 Answers 5


Both convey the idea that one is lacking the power to perform a physically demanding task or lacking physical strength and energy. However feeble leans towards lacking the power/energy... as a result of age or illness.

Feeble is, as you said, more vague than directly saying old people, but still sends out the wanted message that people of older age are more at risk of flu-related complications.

Both could be used. But in this situation, as WS2 pointed out, you might want to use elderly as you seem to be implying that people of old-age are more at risk. But it wont necessarily mean that they are weak.

If you really need to convey the message of weakness, feeble would be the way to go.


Frail is a preferred adjective in the private health-care sector in the UK, from personal experience of working in that industry.

Feeble is regarded more as unfit for it's negative connotations of mental weakness, where such words as emotionally or mentally (or even cognitively) vulnerable are deemed apt.

  • tank you, i like your suggestion.
    – user7064
    Feb 11, 2014 at 18:33
  • 3
    This is the most appropriate word in this context because feeble is open to multiple misinterpretations.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 11, 2014 at 18:34
  • 2
    I wouldn't however say, "frail people" but opt for "people in frail health"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 11, 2014 at 19:15
  • @Mari-LouA I disagree. I wouldn't necessarily consider a (relatively) healthy 75 year old someone 'in frail health'. However, I would consider them (absolutely) 'frail'.
    – Řídící
    Feb 11, 2014 at 19:23
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA No, I don't agree. :) Apparently, the specified risk-factor at issue is age, not activeness. Objectively 'frail' would seem to apply (for all elderly), but 'frail health' doesn't necessarily (depending on your definition of health).
    – Řídící
    Feb 11, 2014 at 19:34

I think this boils down to what exactly you mean by 'feeble'. The primary meaning in Collins Dictionary is 'lacking in physical and mental strength'.

Now, just because someone lacks 'strength' (i.e. they are not muscular and able to lift heavy weights), does not, I would suggest, render them any more at risk of flu-related complications than anyone else.

I am not a medical person, so please don't place any reliance medically on this, but it could be that if the feebleness is caused by some other chronic condition such as diabetes, or is the result of old-age, then it may well make them more liable to flu-related conditions. Everyone over the age of 60 in Britain is entitled to a free anti-flu vaccination once per year, and is encouraged to have it. So it does seem that older people are at risk. But I know plenty over 60 who are certainly not 'feeble'.

So I would tend to rephrase the sentence as;

'Elderly or infirm people are at more risk of flu-related complications.'

'Weak' has exactly the same problems as 'feeble'.

  • I doubt 'infirm' covers the group at risk (other than the 'elderly'). 'Infirm', to me, means already stricken (with/by something).
    – Řídící
    Feb 11, 2014 at 19:03
  • @GlenTheUdderboat Well, if they are not old and not 'already stricken with something' I don't see why they should be at more risk than anyone else.
    – WS2
    Feb 11, 2014 at 19:14
  • @WS2 '[T]he very young' are one such category.
    – Řídící
    Feb 11, 2014 at 19:18
  • @GlenTheUdderboat Yes, you are quite right. Apparently the very young are particularly at risk of pneumonia as a complication of flu. (I should have known because I believe it happened to me as a child - but that was in 1945) So perhaps we need to change the sentence to read: 'The very young, the elderly and the infirm....'
    – WS2
    Feb 11, 2014 at 19:35
  • @WS2 I already commented to the question that the WHO uses (for infections) "the very young, the elderly, and those with other [than influenza] serious medical conditions". :)
    – Řídící
    Feb 11, 2014 at 19:41

People with low immunity .... works good I believe.


I'd say this sentence sounds more neutral:

People of advanced age, who are in fragile health, are more at risk of flu-related complications.

"Old" and "feeble" may have negative connotations.

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