April 16, 2012

A recently published research study by a well-respected nonpartisan research group operating under a grant from the Social Security Administration found that during improving economic times when lower-paid nursing home staff seek and obtain better paying jobs elsewhere, there are additional deaths of people over 65 (especially for women over 65) and that overall mortality rates rise with the rising economy. Therefore, there is a basis for concluding that when the economy is expanding, nursing home staff are reduced and become scarce and that deaths among elderly residents in nursing homes rise as a result.

Prior research has shown that death rates in the United States rise during periods of low unemployment and fall as unemployment rates rise. The reason for such is believed to be that health is negatively effected and mortality is thereby increased during periods of economic growth when increasing employment rates may result in increased job-related stress, less time for leisure and physical activities, less attention to a good diet, etc.

The recent study found that for each one percent decrease in the unemployment rate, the mortality rate for men increased by one-quarter of one percent and the mortality rate for women increased by four-tenths of one percent with the increase being the same for women over 65 (women over 65 are typically not employed and therefore job-related causes for the increase in the death rate for women over 65 would not be an explanation for the increase in the death rate for this population).

In nursing homes, the rate is even greater and statistically significant: a 0.56% increase in deaths in nursing homes for every one percent decrease in the unemployment rate. And mortality increases in states with higher percentages of their populations who are in nursing homes.

The deaths of men and women over 65 accounted for seventy five percent of the additional deaths, with women in this age group accounting for fifty five percent of the additional deaths. The study also found that the changes in the death rates for people 65 and older were principally associated with changes in the employment of younger adults. Therefore, the researchers looked into the level of nursing home employment (in which most of the residents are elderly and there are more female residents than male residents since women tend to outlive men) to attempt to find the reason that more of the elderly die as unemployment is falling.

Prior research has shown that the ability of nursing homes to hire lower-paid staff such as nursing aides decreases as the economy improves as these lower-paid employees find higher-paying jobs in other areas of the economy (a one percent decrease in the unemployment rate equates to a three percent percent decrease in nursing home aides and more than two percent decrease in nurses).

Therefore, it appears that the research indicates that a greater scarcity of nursing home aides may have a direct and significant impact on nursing home residents, resulting in nursing home residents dying in greater numbers as the unemployment rate decreases.


The research would support the common-sense requirement that nursing homes must maintain sufficient levels of care-giving staff in order to provide appropriate care to their nursing home residents. When nursing homes choose to reduce their staff or fail to employ sufficient staff for their residents, the residents suffer serious consequences as a direct result of the insufficient staffing levels.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries or death as a result of inadequate nursing home staffing and/or as a result of nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, or nursing home abuse, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice attorney to determine if you may have a medical malpractice claim against the nursing home for the inadequate or negligent care.

Click here to visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to investigate your possible claim against a nursing home or call us toll free at 800-295-3959.

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