Suffocation Deaths among the Elderly
Ellen A. Kramarow, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), CDC
Judi Wong, Drexel University
Li Hui Chen, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), CDC
Margaret Warner, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), CDC
Suffocation is the third leading (unintentional) injury-related cause of death among older persons. Among persons 85 and older, there are more deaths attributed to suffocation as an underlying cause than to motor vehicle traffic accidents. Many more deaths among this age group list suffocation as a contributing cause of death. Suffocation as a cause of death is poorly understood and often overlooked in research on old age mortality. We examine the sex and age patterns of suffocation deaths and analyze the multiple causes of death associated with suffocation. Suffocation death rates are higher among men than women, and a larger proportion of these deaths occur in hospitals and nursing homes compared with deaths from all causes. Suffocation as a contributing cause of death is associated with chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke. We discuss these findings and their implications for medical care and for mortality research.