(HealthDay News) — More than half of older patients presenting to the emergency department are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, according to a study published online August 12 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Greg F. Pereira, from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill, and colleagues estimated the prevalence of malnutrition among older patients presenting to an emergency department in the southeastern United States. Data were obtained in a cross-sectional study with random time block sampling. Nutrition was assessed among 138 older adults.

The researchers found that 16% of participants were malnourished and more than half (60%) were either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition. More than three-quarters (77%) of malnourished patients had not previously received a diagnosis of malnutrition. There was no appreciable difference in the prevalence of malnutrition between men and women, across levels of patient education, or for those living in urban or rural areas. The prevalence of malnutrition was increased among those with depressive symptoms, in assisted living, with difficulty eating, and for those reporting difficulty buying groceries (52, 44, 38, and 33%, respectively).

“Among a random sample of cognitively intact older emergency department patients, more than half were malnourished or at risk for malnutrition, and the majority of malnourished patients had not previously received a diagnosis,” the authors write.

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