Spinal Cord Injuries Are Increasing Among Older Adults, New Study Finds
June 19, 2015
Adults 65 and older are sustaining spinal cord injuries more often than any other demographic, and about 1 in every 5 of these injuries is fatal, a new study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has recently reported. This study, which was conducted at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, focused on analyzing the rates of spinal cord injuries among different sectors of the population over the past two decades or so.
While researchers found that the rates of spinal cord injuries among those 16 to 24 years old had significantly decreased from 1993 to 2012, they also discovered that far more elderly adults had been suffering spinal cord injuries during this same period of time. Specifically, the findings were that, for those between 65 and 74 years old:
- Among males, the rates of spinal cord injuries jumped from 84 per million in 1993 to 131 per million in 2012.
- Among females, the rates jumped from 32 per million in 1993 to 53 per million in 2012.
What May Be Causing These Trends? Researchers Attempt to Explain…
Some of the reasons for these opposite trends in spinal cord injury rates among younger versus older adults were noted by researchers in this study. In fact, when explaining why the younger demographic has displayed declining rates of spinal cord injuries over the last 20 or so years, researchers noted that the following likely played a critical role:
- Improved motor vehicle safety features
- Public education
- Stricter laws and better enforcement of those laws (particularly those related to seatbelt use and drunk driving).
Although researchers didn’t specifically note why they thought the rates of spinal cord injuries among older adults has been increasing over the past few decades, other medical professionals have offered their opinions, with some explaining that falling has a lot to do with it.
In fact, they elaborated that, as people age, they are far more likely to fall and seriously injure themselves because they are more likely to be experiencing vision problems, as well as balance problems and a loss of their fine motor skills.
Some of the things that can further increase the risk of falls at home and, in turn, spinal cord injuries among the elderly, these professionals noted, include (but aren’t necessarily limited to):
- Not having clear pathways
- A lack of railings
- Poorly maintained stairs
- Out-of-date eyeglass prescriptions.
To start reversing the increasing rate of spinal cord injuries among the elderly, one doctor says awareness and prevention is key. Specifically, Dr. Robert Glatter (not affiliated with the study) has explained that perhaps, “designing a safer home and community that elevates awareness of potential risks for falls and resulting [spinal cord] injuries may help to reduce injury and suffering.”
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