Risk behaviors and spectrum of diseases among elderly travelers: a comparison of younger and older adults.J Travel Med. 2010 Jul-Aug; 17(4):250-5.JT
Elderly travel to the developing world is increasing. Little information is available regarding risk behaviors and health during and after travel in this population.
We compared the risk factors and occurrence of travel-related diseases in two populations of Israelis, travelers aged 60 years and older and travelers in the age group of 20 to 30 years. Only people traveling for less than a month were included. Pre-travel, each person received routine counseling regarding travel-associated health risks, was immunized, and given anti-malarial prescriptions as needed. Travelers were surveyed by telephone 6 to 12 months following travel about underlying medical conditions, current medications, and travel history. Risk and preventive behaviors, compliance with anti-malarial prophylaxis, and history of illness during and after travel were assessed.
Of patients who visited the clinic from January to June 2008, 191/208 (91%) travelers aged 60 and older and 203/291 (69%) travelers aged 20 to 30 years were contacted by phone and recruited. Fewer elderly travelers drank open drinks, compared to young travelers (8% vs 35%, p < 0.01), and fewer purchased street food compared to young travelers (16.2% vs 37.9%, p < 0.01). More elderly travelers were fully compliant with their anti-malarial chemoprophylaxis regimen (60.7% vs 33.8%, p < 0.01). More elderly travelers took organized tours (61% vs 2%, p < 0.001). Young travelers more often backpacked (50.7% vs 10.4%, p < 0.001). Illness, most commonly diarrhea, was reported by 18.8% of elderly travelers compared to 34.0% of the young travelers (p = 0.001). In a logistic regression model only travel to East Asia (OR 4.66) (95%CI 1.93-11.22) and traveling under basic conditions (OR 1.94) (95% CI 1.42-3.29) remained significantly associated with illness, irrespective of age.
Because elderly travelers tend to comply with health-related recommendations better and use less risky travel modes, their risk for illness during travel was lower. Traveling to East Asia and travel mode are associated with illness during travel, irrespective of age.