"We found that those who have non-elective (emergency or urgent) hospitalisations and who have not previously been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's disease had a rapid decline in cognitive function (i.e., thinking abilities) compared to the prehospital rates," said Bryan James, a researcher. "By comparison, people who were never hospitalized and those who had elective hospitalizations did not experience the drastic decline in cognitive function."
The study compares hospitalisation data and cognitive assessments for 777 older adults. It involved annual cognitive assessments and clinical evaluations.
Of the 777 participants, 460 were hospitalised at least once over an average of almost five years of observation. Of those who were hospitalised, 222 (29 per cent of the total study population) had at least one elective hospital admission, and 418 (54 per cent) had at least one non-elective hospital admission. These groups included 180 participants (23 per cent) who had both types of hospitalisations.
Non-elective hospitalisations were associated with an approximately 50 per cent acceleration in the rate of cognitive decline from before hospitalisation, and a rate of cognitive decline that was more than double the rate in persons who were not hospitalised. Elective hospitalisations, however, were not associated with acceleration in the rate of decline at all.