What’s the single factor that makes you more likely to wind up in hospital? 34



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New research has pinpointed a determining factor that could mean you are more likely to end up in hospital, and more likely to stay for longer.

Researcher Professor Jane Hall, of the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), says living alone increases the probability of hospital admission by about 3 per cent, and the length of stay by almost four days among people aged 45 and older.

The findings, using data from the 2009 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, examine healthcare challenges of our ageing population and the rise in the number of single-person households – living alone is more common among the elderly

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that by 2022 the number of people aged 65 to 84 will top 4 million. The ABS predicts one in three households will be single-person by 2026.

Professor Hall and the team found that living alone is a factor that makes people more vulnerable to being hospitalised. If you are on older Australians who lives alone, statistically you are more likely to be admitted to hospital, and more likely to stay longer once you’re there. That’s bad news, not just for you, but it also has implications for health policy and funding.

It’s a fairly obvious correlation, if you live alone you tend to soldier on, with no one to question why you’re struggling instead of seeking medical help. You may not even notice symptoms like weight loss or changes to appetite and sleep patterns.

Living in close knit communities may make a difference. If you shop in the same place and stop for coffee at the same cafe everyday, people become involved in each others lives and notice small changes.

The researchers also found that people living alone after separation or divorce are more likely to be admitted to hospital, whereas those who’ve always lived alone are most likely to stay in hospital longer once admitted, the researchers have found.

Surprisingly there was no effect on people who’ve been widowed. It’s a counterintuitive discovery. The natural assumption would be that the added factor of stress and grief, caused by the loss, would exacerbate any illness. The theory is that those who are bereaved, are better at looking after themselves. They may have become carers before their spouse died, and have learnt how to manage the cooking and the shopping and are aware of nutrition.

The research raises the need to reexamine hospital discharge policies, housing and mental health policies. Looking for ways that services can pick up vulnerable people earlier and provide them with the sort of support that will improve their quality of life, improve their health outcomes, while at the same time placing fewer demands on the health system.

For us all to stay healthy and still be excited about our lives as we get older, maybe we should be deconstructing and remodelling the way how plan and organise retirement living. How and where we live when we are older, could make all the difference to our quality of life.  If the money spent on caring for older single people was matched by the amount of cash spent on providing a great life for older people in a place they choose to live with plenty of affordable opportunities to socialise, and stay well physically and mentally, surely the cost of health provision because of hospitalisation would naturally dwindle.

If you’re single there’s no one at home to nag you about your diet and exercise, or notice changes in your health or mood so how do you make sure you stay fit and well ?


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I stay well by still getting up and going to work at 6am every morning 6days a week

  2. Not for me. I don’t mind living alone

    5 REPLY
  3. I’ve no doubt that being on your own, when you don’t want to be, can impact greatly on one’s state of mind and health, no matter what your age bracket is. Being alone and/or isolated are genuine issues for many folks, particularly the elderly. Friends pass away and family members aren’t always accessible or for whatever reason, don’t make themselves accessible. It’s one reason why, as friends and family, we should make the effort to keep in touch and involve our `singledom’ family, friends and acquaintances, particularly the elderly ones, as they are not likely to ask for company themselves. So great that in NZ we have organizations like Age Concern who do so much to assist the aged in our community.

  4. My husband has recently gone into Aged Care, I am selling the house and moving into a 55 and over village, I’m pretty sure I sum doing the right thing, my kids are very angry that I am doing this, but I’m now by myself and being with people my own age and being able to do things there will be great.

    9 REPLY
    • My husband passed away 4 months after moving into an over 50 gated resort, the people have and continue to be so supportive, also there are so many activities that one can get involved in both in the resort and outside. My family are a long way from where I live, very caring but they have their life to live. Good luck

    • Good on you Vivian. You hav to do what u know is best for yr future. Its not being selfish. I think its a wise choice considering the circumstanced. Im lucky that my 2 grown up children do giv an opinion but usually say > “At the end of the day mum it is yr choice” which i find v/respectful. Mayb yr children r still dealing with their farther having to go into a resthome. They cannot always understand things from an older persons perspective until yrv explained it to them

    • Why are some children so overbearing. Well done you have to look after yourself . Hope they see that you have made the right choice.

    • Your children need to realise it is your life. They are probably cranky that you are spending their inheritance. I am sure they will eventually see reason. If not its their loss

  5. A fall of some sort, I fell over 14 days ago and broke my hip and still in hospital also have had to move out of current home as has lots of stairs so now I don’t even have anywhere to live so my advise is to just take things easy xx

  6. Very interesting read, I have a couple of older friends who live alone but they engage in activities in our community which makes it easier for friends to keep an eye on them.

    1 REPLY
    • I live on my own but recently i have had a few health problems. I have two daughters one lives in Perth & one lives near me in Qld. Both daughters want to build a granny flat on their house but i cant decide. Can anyone please help me to make a decision?

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