Epidemiology of anemia in older adults

Semin Hematol. 2008 Oct;45(4):210-7. doi: 10.1053/j.seminhematol.2008.06.006.


Anemia is a common, multifactorial condition among older adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) definition of anemia (hemoglobin concentration <12 g/dL in women and <13 g/dL in men) is most often used in epidemiologic studies of older adults. More than 10% of community-dwelling adults age 65 years and older has WHO-defined anemia. After age 50 years, prevalence of anemia increases with advancing age and exceeds 20% in those 85 years and older. In nursing homes, anemia is present in 48% to 63% of residents. Incidence of anemia in older adults is not well characterized. Among older adults with anemia, approximately one third have evidence of iron, folate, and/or vitamin B(12) deficiency, another third have renal insufficiency and/or chronic inflammation, and the remaining third have anemia that is unexplained. Several studies demonstrate that anemia is associated with poorer survival in older adults. This review details the distribution and consequences of anemia in older adults and identifies future epidemiologic research needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Anemia / epidemiology*
  • Anemia / ethnology
  • Anemia / etiology
  • Anemia / mortality
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / complications
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / complications
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology
  • Nursing Homes
  • Prevalence
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / epidemiology