Number of homebound, older adults in US doubled in 2020, study finds

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The percentage of homebound, older adults in the U.S. substantially increased in 2020, more than doubling figures seen in the last decade, according to a study published Aug. 23 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed the annual national prevalence of homebound status among Medicare beneficiaries ages 70 and older between 2011 and 2020. They used data on 10,785 adults collected for the National Health and Aging Trends Study — an annual, nationally representative survey designed to assess late-life disability trends and trajectories. 

The prevalence of homebound adults increased from 5 percent from 2011 to 2019 to 13 percent in 2020. Last year, an estimated 4.2 million adults were homebound, compared to 1.9 million adults in 2019. Researchers defined homebound as leaving home less than once a week. 

Latino adults were most likely to be homebound in 2020 (34.5 percent), compared to Black adults (22.6 percent) and white adults (10.1 percent). 

The study did not establish a reason for this increase, though researchers said social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions are a likely explanation. They added that homebound rates may have fluctuated during the pandemic, which is a study limitation.

"The extent to which the increased prevalence of homebound older adults that we observed in 2020 will continue in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic abates, as well as the likely social, psychological, and physical effects, remains to be seen," researchers concluded.

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