Adults over age 50 with sleep apnea exhibit a 21% increased likelihood of hospitalizations and health service use down the line.


Summary: A new study reveals that older adults with sleep apnea have a higher likelihood of utilizing health care services, including hospitalization, in the future. The study, which analyzed data from over 20,000 participants, shows that those with sleep apnea have a 21% higher chance of needing health services. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Older adults with sleep apnea have a 21% higher likelihood of using health services, including hospitalization, compared to those without sleep apnea.
  • Sleep apnea is linked to an increased risk of serious medical conditions such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Timely identification and management of sleep apnea in older adults can improve health outcomes and reduce the burden on health care systems.

A new study found that sleep apnea is associated with increased odds of future utilization of health care services including hospitalization among older adults.

Results, to be presented at the SLEEP 2024 annual meeting, show that participants aged 50 years and older with sleep apnea had a 21% higher odds of reporting future use of any health service compared with those without sleep apnea. Specifically, individuals with sleep apnea had 21% higher odds of hospitalization after controlling for potential confounders including demographics, body mass index, health conditions, and depressive symptoms.

Increased Risk and Implications

“Our research indicates that older adults who have sleep apnea are more likely to use health services in the future than those who don’t have sleep apnea,” says lead author Christopher Kaufmann, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of health outcomes and biomedical informatics at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, in a release. “The findings hold true even after taking into account other factors that may contribute to an increased risk of health service utilization.”

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, nearly 30 million adults in the US have obstructive sleep apnea. Untreated, moderate to severe sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of medical problems such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Study Details and Recommendations

The researchers analyzed data from 20,115 participants in the 2016 and 2018 Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative cohort of middle-aged and older adults in the US. Participants were surveyed about sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, in 2016 and their subsequent use of health services in 2018. Nearly 12% of participants reported being told by a doctor that they have sleep apnea.

Kaufmann emphasizes the need for timely identification and management of sleep apnea in older adults to mitigate its downstream effects on health care utilization.

“Addressing sleep apnea can not only improve individual health outcomes but also alleviate the strain on health care resources, leading to more efficient and effective health care delivery,” says Kaufmann in a release.

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