All-Cause Hospital Admissions Among Older Adults After a Natural Disaster

Study objectiveWe characterize hospital admissions among older adults for any cause in the 30 days after a significant natural disaster in the United States. The main outcome was all-cause hospital admissions in the 30 days after natural disaster. Separate analyses were conducted to examine all-cause hospital admissions excluding the 72 hours after the disaster, ICU admissions, all-cause inhospital mortality, and admissions by state.
A self-controlled case series analysis using the 2011 Medicare Provider and Analysis Review was conducted to examine exposure to natural disaster by elderly adults located in zip codes affected by tornadoes during the 2011 southeastern superstorm. Spatial data of tornado events were obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Severe Report database, and zip code data were obtained from the US Census Bureau.
All-cause hospital admissions increased by 4% for older adults in the 30 days after the April 27, 2011, tornadoes (incidence rate ratio 1.04; 95% confidence interval 1.01 to 1.07). When the first 3 days after the disaster that may have been attributed to immediate injuries were excluded, hospitalizations for any cause also remained higher than when compared with the other 11 months of the year (incidence rate ratio 1.04; 95% confidence interval 1.01 to 1.07). There was no increase in ICU admissions or inhospital mortality associated with the natural disaster. When data were examined by individual states, Alabama, which had the highest number of persons affected, had a 9% increase in both hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
When all time-invariant characteristics were controlled for, this natural disaster was associated with a significant increase in all-cause hospitalizations. This analysis quantifies acute care use after disasters through examining all-cause hospitalizations and represents an important contribution to building models of resilience-the ability to recover from a disaster-and hospital surge capacity.