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Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2007 Nov;116(11):858-65.

Dysphagia in the elderly: preliminary evidence of prevalence, risk factors, and socioemotional effects.

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Dept of Communication Sciences and Disorders, The University of Utah, 390 South 1530 East, Room 1219, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0252, USA.



Epidemiological studies of dysphagia in the elderly are rare. A non-treatment-seeking, elderly cohort was surveyed to provide preliminary evidence regarding the prevalence, risks, and socioemotional effects of swallowing disorders.


Using a prospective, cross-sectional survey design, we interviewed 117 seniors living independently in Utah and Kentucky (39 men and 78 women; mean age, 76.1 years; SD, 8.5 years; range, 65 to 94 years) regarding 4 primary areas related to swallowing disorders: lifetime and current prevalence, symptoms and signs, risk and protective factors, and socioemotional consequences.


The lifetime prevalence of a swallowing disorder was 38%, and 33% of the participants reported a current problem. Most seniors with dysphagia described a sudden onset with chronic problems that had persisted for at least 4 weeks. Stepwise logistic regression identified 3 primary symptoms uniquely associated with a history of swallowing disorders: taking a longer time to eat (odds ratio [OR], 9.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.3 to 40.2); coughing, throat clearing, or choking before, during, or after eating (OR, 3.4; 95% CI, 1.1 to 10.2); and a sensation of food stuck in the throat (OR, 5.2; 95% CI, 1.8 to 10.0). Stroke (p = .02), esophageal reflux (p = .003), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (p = .05), and chronic pain (p = .03) were medical conditions associated with a history of dysphagia. Furthermore, dysphagia produced numerous adverse socioemotional effects.


This study provides preliminary evidence to suggest that chronic swallowing disorders are common among the elderly, and highlights the need for larger epidemiological studies of these disorders.

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