Dietitians call for action on malnutrition among older Australians, following study findings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 30th April 2012

A new study published in the Dietitians Association of Australia’s journal, Nutrition & Dietetics, has found that more than 40 per cent of community-living older Australians are either “malnourished or at risk of malnutrition”.

The Melbourne-based study has prompted calls from dietitians for routine nutrition screening and targeted nutrition programs to address malnutrition.

Over a three-month study period, community nurses in Victoria assessed 235 clients aged 65 years and older for malnutrition. One in three (34 per cent) were identified as being at risk of malnutrition, while eight per cent were found to be malnourished.

Nineteen per cent of participants were underweight, 41 per cent were a healthy weight, and 40 per cent were overweight or obese.

Study participants ranged from 65 to 100 years, with an average age of 82. The majority received a pension, with an annual income of less than AU$30,000, and lived at home, either alone or with a spouse or other family.

Dietitians Association of Australia CEO Claire Hewat said that the Federal Government’s recently-released 10-year plan to reshape aged care in Australia, needs to address malnutrition in community-living older people.

She also said that previous Australian research has found more than one in three hospitals patients and up to 70 per cent of residents in aged care facilities are malnourished.

Study leader Georgie Rist, an Accredited Practising Dietitian said, “Malnutrition is linked with poorer health, meaning increased GP visits, more admissions to hospital and longer hospital stays, and early admission to nursing homes.

“Community nurses are ideally placed to pick-up nutrition issues in older people as they are at the forefront of client care in the home,” Ms Rist said.