Hospital admissions in poorly nourished, compared with well-nourished, older South Australians receiving 'Meals on Wheels': findings from a pilot study

Australas J Ageing. 2014 Sep;33(3):164-9. doi: 10.1111/ajag.12009. Epub 2013 Mar 4.


Aim: To evaluate whether 'Meals on Wheels' (MOW) improves health and reduces hospital admissions in poorly nourished (PN) older people.

Methods: Two hundred and fifty older South Australians were retrospectively classified: (i) PN (MNA score <24) receiving MOW (MOW PN); (ii) PN not receiving MOW (non-MOW PN); and (iii) well-nourished (WN). Data regarding their health were compared.

Results: Health outcomes at baseline for MOW PN and non-MOW PN were not different, but both were worse than the WN. Over 12 months, weight loss was ∼2-3 times greater in both PN than WN groups. Hospital admissions were not different for MOW PN compared with non-MOW PN and WN, but non-MOW PN had 2.9 as many admissions and spent 5 days more in hospital than WN (all Ps < 0.05).

Conclusion: Providing MOW to nutritionally vulnerable older people may not prevent age-related decline in health, although a potential reduction in hospital admissions warrants investigation.

Keywords: Meals on Wheels; Mini-Nutritional Assessment; domiciliary care; hospital admission; older people.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Eating*
  • Female
  • Food Services*
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Patient Admission*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • South Australia
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Loss