Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast of the United States in August 2005, initially displaced over a million people from their primary place of residence. Displaced older adults subsequently faced challenges, such as new or inferior living conditions, which could increase vulnerability to serious or life-threatening injuries such as hip fracture. The aim of this study was to determine whether Katrina victims who were displaced for a prolonged period of time were more likely to experience injuries than nondisplaced victims.
We tracked injury outcomes including fractures, sprains or strains, and lacerations in a cohort of 25,019 older adults (age ≥ 65 years) enrolled in a Medicare-Advantage Plan, for 1 year after Katrina. We used medical claims to obtain injury outcomes and analyzed propensity-score adjusted predictors of injury, including displacement status at 12 months.
In our sample, 7,030 (28%) older adults were displaced at 12-month post-Katrina. Displaced victims had 1.53 (95% CI: 1.10-2.13) greater odds of sustaining a hip fracture in the year after the storm and 1.24 (95% CI: 1.07-1.44) greater odds of sustaining other fractures after adjusting for other risk factors. There was no significant association between displacement status at 12 months and sprains or strains or lacerations.
Prolonged displacement is associated with increased risk of fracture in older adults. Emergency planners should screen temporary housing for injury hazards, and clinicians should regard displaced older adults as a vulnerable population in need of interventions such as risk communication messaging.