The study published in the recent Medical Journal of Australia examined nursing home residents whose deaths had been reported to state coroners from 2001-2013.

The study found that the incidence of premature (death which occurred sooner than necessary) and preventable deaths has increased over the past decade. It was identified that 15.2% of deaths occurred due to external causes and of those deaths:

  • The three highest proportioned causes were falls (81.5%), choking (7.9%) and suicide (4.4%).
  • Whilst most incidents resulting in the death of residents occurred in the nursing home, 67.1% of deaths resulting from external causes occurred outside of the nursing home, typically in a hospital.
  • 2.9% of deaths involved a coroners’ inquest and coroners’ recommendations about injury prevention were made in 1.6% of cases.

Interestingly a four-fold increase in external cause deaths was identified during the study period. However, it was thought that this may reflect more accurate data being reported, improvements in coronial systems and a better understanding of what constitutes a reportable death.

Given that over the coming decades it is anticipated that 25% of Australia’s population will be over the age of 65, the authors call for prompt action in policy, practice and research to ensure that current trends in premature deaths are addressed. 

To read the full article "Premature deaths of nursing home residents: an epidemiological analysis" MJA 206 (10), click here.