Why More People Than Ever Are Dying From Malnutrition In The United States
Many experts believe that the rise in malnutrition-related deaths in the United States is linked to the pandemic because the majority of individuals suffering from this cause were 85 years of age or older.
The rate of deaths linked to malnutrition has been on the rise in the United States for the past decade, but it has almost doubled since the pandemic started at the end of 2019, according to US News. Malnutrition is often linked to older people, especially those who are sick, live in low-income areas, and aren’t able to leave the house or rely on others to help them get proper food and medical care. During the pandemic, many in this demographic were isolated from the outside world and those who could help them, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes is linked to the rise in death rates.
In 2014, the California Department of Public Health counted 294 deaths related to malnutrition. In 2022, the count rose to 1,406. The same trend occurred throughout the United States with deaths by this cause more than doubling in the last four years alone.
Many experts believe that the rise in malnutrition-related deaths in the United States is linked to the pandemic because the majority of individuals suffering from this cause were 85 years of age or older. During pandemic lockdowns, these individuals became more isolated than the rest of the world as those they loved tried to keep them safe from catching COVID.
Senior citizens who don’t drive didn’t feel comfortable taking the bus or other modes of transportation anymore, nor did family members want vulnerable loved ones sitting in their car where they might expose them to the virus. Additionally, adult day care and other programs that could have helped feed senior citizens also closed down. All of this could have contributed to more isolated individuals without proper access to food in the United States, leading to malnutrition.
However, malnutrition death rates continue to rise in the United States, despite lockdowns ceasing over a year ago. Experts say that even though legal restrictions have eased up, many in the senior citizen community are still being cautious as COVID-19 is still the fifth leading cause of death for people 85 or older. So, even though the pandemic seems to be over for the majority of the world, our elders are still in the thick of it.
Despite the pandemic being a significant factor in why the United States is seeing a rise in malnutrition death rates, COVID isn’t the only reason to consider. As a general rule, older people eat less as, biologically, they’re less hungry. They also have a slower metabolism than younger generations, so their bodies don’t absorb all the nutrients they need from the food they do eat.
Additionally, people 85 years or older are more likely to suffer diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart failure, cancer, and depression, all of which could lead to someone eating less than they should.
Even as the pandemic continues to wane, experts are expecting malnutrition rates to continue to rise as the population of older individuals rises as well. Before 2030, the number of people aged 85 or older in California is about to grow by 54 percent, or by 420,000 individuals. However, there are United States government programs as well as non-profit organizations like Meals on Wheels that aim to help individuals who need access to healthy food.