Malnutrition is common in older adults, and is associated with high healthcare costs and adverse outcomes, particularly in hospital settings(Reference Rice and Normand1,Reference Rasheed and Woods2) . The prevalence and correlates of malnutrition in hospitalised older adults are currently not clear; much of the existing research in this area is limited methodologically; studies are typically based on small samples and/or narrow populations(Reference Chen, Bai and Huang3,Reference Vanderwee, Clays and Bocquaert4) , exclude people with dementia(Reference Chen, Bai and Huang3,Reference Vanderwee, Clays and Bocquaert4) , are uni-centre(Reference Eide, Halvorsen and Almendingen5), and/or use tools not designed for use with older adults(Reference Eide, Halvorsen and Almendingen5). The present study addresses this gap, investigating the prevalence, correlates and outcomes of malnutrition in older adults on admission to hospital.
In total, 606 (70+ years) older adults were included in a prospective cohort study across six hospitals in the Republic of Ireland. All elective and acute admissions to any speciality were eligible. Day-case admissions and those moribund on admission were excluded. All participants were clinically assessed for dementia on admission (see Timmons et al.(Reference Timmons, Manning and Barrett6)). Socio-demographic and clinical data, including nutritional status (Mini-Nutritional Assessment – short form(Reference Kaiser, Bauer and Ramsch7), was collected within 36 hours of admission. Outcome data was collected prospectively on length of stay, in-hospital mortality and institutionalisation.
The mean age was 79·7; 51 % were female; 29 % were elective admissions; 67 % were admitted to a medical specialty. Nutrition scores were available for 602/606; 37 % had a ‘normal’ status, 45 % were ‘at-risk’, and 18 % were ‘malnourished’. Malnutrition was more common in females, acute admissions, older patients and those who were widowed/ separated. Dementia, functional dependency, comorbidity and frailty independently predicted a) malnutrition and b) being at-risk of malnutrition (p < ·001). Malnutrition was also associated with an increased length of stay (p < ·001), institutionalisation (p < 0·001) and in-hospital mortality (p < ·001).
These findings support the prioritisation of nutritional screening in clinical practice and public health policy, for all ≥70 on admission to hospital, and in particular for people with dementia, increased functional dependency and/or multi-morbidity, and those who are frail.