Study: Hospital admissions for seniors increase after natural disaster

The research results have implications for response and recovery and hospital staffing after emergencies and natural disasters.

By Amy Wallace

Aug. 7 (UPI) -- A study at the University of Michigan has found that hospital admissions for older adults increase significantly in the weeks after a natural disaster.

Researchers found that in the 30 days following a tornado outbreak in the Southeast and Midwest United States in 2011, hospital admissions for adults age 65 and older increased an average of 4 percent in the affected areas of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee.


The study, published Aug. 5 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, showed that the increases held even after researchers excluded the three days immediately following the disaster when hospitalizations for injuries were expected.

"It was obvious that these discrete severe events would cause trauma on the day or so after tornado touchdown," Sue Anne Bell, a clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, said in a press release. "It was not obvious, and had never been previously shown, that they caused hundreds of extra admissions in the weeks after the tornado."

Researchers analyzed Medicare claims for 27,000 people and 57,000 hospitalizations during the April 2011 outbreak.

The study found that on average there were 5,028 hospital admissions in the affected areas during the 30 days after the tornado outbreak compared to 4,712 hospitalizations in a 30 day period any other time of the year.


The results could have implications for response, recovery and hospital staffing after an emergency.

"The cost that hospitals incur and the effect on the community and manpower really lasts a lot longer than expected," Bell said. "Hospitals and communities need to be considering this."

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