Impact of Trauma on Aging Baby Boomers

Surgical Rounds®July 2014

Out of all possible factors, trauma is the single largest cause of death among Americans aged 46 years or younger.

Out of all possible factors, trauma is the single largest cause of death among Americans aged 46 years or younger, according to a study published in the July 2014 issue of the Annals of Surgery.

For the study, researchers from the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center analyzed the relationship between the aging population and trauma mortality, which they related to the rates of death from cancer and heart disease. Relying on the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System database of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the researchers analyzed trauma deaths as unintentional injuries, suicides, and homicides over a 10-year period from 2000 to 2010.

While the US population increased by 9.7% over those 10 years, the number of trauma deaths increased by 22.8%, the investigators found. In comparison, the death rates for cancer and heart disease decreased over the study period.

Nevertheless, those aged 25 years or younger were less likely to die from trauma in 2010 than in previous years — an improvement the authors attributed to the proliferation of trauma centers. However, the risk of death from trauma increased among those aged 25 years or older, with the largest proportional increase in trauma deaths occurring among 54-year-olds.

In an accompanying editorial, Gregory J. Jurkovich, MD, reiterated that the aging Baby Boomer generation’s increased risk of trauma burdens hospitals, extended care nursing facilities, and other resources. While trauma centers remain extraordinarily effective for young patients, Jurkovick noted that they might be ill equipped to properly care for elderly trauma patients.

Both articles called for increased funding for trauma research and injury-prevention strategies, as well as a shift in focus for all trauma-related healthcare activities to accommodate the needs of the aging US population.

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