HealthDay News — More than half of older patients presenting to the emergency department are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, according to researchers. Geriatric patients account for more than 20 million ED visits each year. 

“Malnutrition is a common but underdiagnosed condition in older adults that is associated with physical and cognitive decline, decreased quality of life, and mortality,” wrote Greg F. Pereira, from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill, and colleagues in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

To estimate the prevalence of malnutrition among older patients presenting to an ED, the investigators studied data in a cross-sectional study with random time block sampling. Nutrition was assessed among 138 older patients.

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Of the patients, 16% were malnourished and 60% were either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition. More than three-quarters (77%) of malnourished patients had not previously received a diagnosis of malnutrition. There was no appreciable difference in the prevalence of malnutrition between male and female patients, across levels of patient education, or for those living in urban versus rural areas.

The prevalence of malnutrition was increased among those with depressive symptoms (52%), those in assisted living (44%), those with difficulty eating (38%), and for those reporting difficulty buying groceries (33%).

“Our findings suggest that there may be value in ED-based screening and interventions to treat malnutrition among older adults,” wrote the researchers.


  1. Pereira G et al. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 2014; doi: