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Better with Age? A Comparison of Geriatric and Non-Geriatric Trauma Patients’ Psychological Outcomes Six Months Post-Injury

In the United States, the geriatric population – adults ages 60 and older – is growing and expected to represent 16% of Americans by 2020. [1] Unfortunately, older adults are more prone to potential physical injury and often have a higher risk of morality, relative to the severity of their injuries, in comparison to younger adults. [2-3] Although much research has focused on the physiological outcomes associated with older age, research around psychological outcomes after a traumatic injury in older adults has yet to be explored.

Our study is the first to compare both physical and psychological outcomes in geriatric and non-geriatric patients during initial hospitalization and at six months post-traumatic injury. We expected that geriatric trauma survivors would experience less psychological symptoms compared to younger trauma survivors. A total of 268 participants (67 geriatric and 201 non-geriatric) recruited and consented from a large, urban, Level I trauma center in the southwestern United States were included in this study. We collected demographic, clinical, and psychological data, including alcohol use, depressive symptoms, and post-traumatic stress symptoms, during initial hospitalization and again at six months post-injury. Results from the analysis show that, even though geriatric patients and non-geriatric patients had comparable Injury Severity Scores during initial hospitalization, statistically significant differences exist at six-month follow-up.

Our results show that despite their increased physiological frailty, geriatric trauma survivors do in fact fare better than their younger counterparts at six months post-trauma on measures of alcohol use, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Based on our findings, screening for alcohol use, depressive symptoms, post-traumatic stress symptoms and providing interventions for both age groups could improve psychological health post-trauma, but younger patients may require additional attention.

Brittney L Culp – the first author

Read the full paper: Culp, B. L., Roden-Foreman, J. W., Thomas, E. V., McShan, E. E., Bennett, M. M., Martin, K. R., Powers, M.B., Foreman, M.L., Petrey, L.B., & Warren, A. M. (2018). Better with age? A comparison of geriatric and non-geriatric trauma patients’ psychological outcomes 6 months post-injury. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1080/16506073.2018.1533578

Photo by: Gemma Stiles

1. Day, J. C. (1996, February). Population projections of the United States by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin: 1995 to 2050. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/prod/1/pop/p25-1130/p251130.pdf

2. American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACS-COT). (2015). National Trauma Data Bank 2015 Annual Report. Retrieved from https://www.facs.org/quality- programs/trauma/ntdb/docpub

3. Kuhne, C. A., Ruchholtz, S., Kaiser, G. M., & Nast-Kolb, D. (2005). Mortality in severely injured elderly trauma patients—when does age become a risk factor? World Journal of Surgery, 29(11), 1476–1482. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00268-005-7796-y

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