Seniors adding to nationwide emergency room squeeze

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The growing population of elderly Americans is placing a significant strain on the U.S. healthcare system. Seniors are the driving force behind a 36% increase in emergency room visits over the last decade, according to a new report.

In fact, seniors have contributed greatly to an increase in all medical visits—to private physicians and hospital outpatient clinics and many other medical practices, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1996, only 9% of hospital inpatients were aged 75 or over, compared with 24% in 2006, the CDC says. And only infants under age 1 make more emergency room visits annually per capita than seniors. A total of 60% of people over 75 visit at least once a year, according to the report.

The rising number of elderly boomers could lead to catastrophic overcrowding in the ER in the next few years, health officials said. The CDC report also notes that ER visits overall have risen 36% since 1996, while the actual number of emergency rooms in the country has dropped by 5%, adding to the crunch.

To view the CDC's report, visit http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/08newsreleases/visitstodoctor.htm.