Introduction: Older adults are vulnerable to disproportionately higher morbidity following disasters. Reasons for this vulnerability are multifaceted and vary by disaster type as well as patient comorbidities. Efforts to mitigate this increased morbidity require identification of at-risk older adults who can be targeted for intervention.
Methods: A PubMed search was performed using the search terms “geriatric, disaster” and “morbidity, disaster” to identify published articles that reported variables associated with increased morbidity of older adults during and after disasters. A review of article titles and abstracts was then conducted to identify those articles that contained evidence-based variables that render older adults vulnerable to poor health outcomes during disasters.
Results: A total of 233 studies was initially identified. After applying exclusion criteria, nine studies were chosen for the comprehensive review. Based on the synthesis of the literature, factors were identified that were repeatedly associated with morbidity and mortality among older adults during and shortly after disasters.
Conclusion: Older adults, especially those with multiple co-morbidities, are at risk of increased morbidity after disasters and catastrophic events. Factors such as the need for prescription medications, low social support, visual and hearing impairment, impaired mobility, and poor economic status are associated with an increased risk of morbidity.