Hospitalizations involving gastroenteritis in the United States, 1985: the special burden of the disease among the elderly

Am J Epidemiol. 1992 Feb 1;135(3):281-90. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a116282.


While diarrheal disease is a well-recognized problem in children, its impact in the elderly has not been adequately assessed. Among the 4.06 million hospitalizations in 1985 in the McDonnell-Douglas Health Information System database, 98,185 hospitalizations, including 1,130 deaths, had gastroenteritis recorded as a discharge diagnosis. The authors analyzed the 87,181 hospitalizations and 514 deaths for which gastroenteritis was one of the top three diagnoses. Gastroenteritis was among the top three diagnoses in 9% of all hospitalizations of children 1-4 years of age, compared with 1.5% of hospitalizations throughout adulthood (greater than or equal to 20 years). Only 0.05% of hospitalizations involving gastroenteritis were fatal for children younger than 5 years, compared with 3% in individuals 80 years or older. While children aged less than 5 years and adults aged 60 years or more each comprised one-fourth of hospitalizations involving gastroenteritis, the older group represented 85% of diarrheal deaths. Age was the most important risk factor for death subsequent to a hospitalization involving gastroenteritis (odds ratio = 52.6, 95% confidence interval 37.0-76.9 for age greater than or equal to 70 years vs. less than 5 years). Gastroenteritis is a large, underemphasized public health problem among the elderly, among whom its case-fatality ratio is higher than in children.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Databases, Factual / standards
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology*
  • Gastroenteritis / etiology
  • Gastroenteritis / mortality
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge / statistics & numerical data
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Selection Bias
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology