U. ROCHESTER (US)—Young adults use the emergency room nearly twice as often as children and adolescents and nearly three times as much as adults older than 30, new research shows.
“Young adults need help navigating the health care system. There are very few resources to help them make the transition from adolescence to adulthood,” explains Robert Fortuna, senior instructor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Young adults are the leading age group for many types of risky behavior, including substance abuse, sexually transmitted illnesses, homicide, and motor vehicle accidents. As adolescents move into young adulthood, suicide rates triple and the age group has considerably higher rates of tobacco use, binge drinking, and illicit drug use.
The study examined data collected from 17,048 young adult emergency room visits and 14,443 young adult outpatient visits in the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.
Results are published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Between 1996 and 2006, young adults’ emergency room visits increased by 5,520,000 visits. By 2006, nearly a quarter (22 percent) of all health care delivered to young adults occurred in emergency department. Young adults were more likely to be cared for in the emergency room for both injury-related and non-injury-related problems.
The statistics for black young adults in emergency departments are even more pronounced. Nearly half of all health care provided to young black men (48.5 percent) was delivered in the emergency room, which shot up 35.4 percent in 1996.
The increase may be related to such factors as barriers in accessing primary care, disparities in preventive care services, or inequalities in preventive counseling and health education.
The majority of the cases were not of an urgent nature. Less than 5 percent of young adults were admitted to the hospital following treatment.
In most cases, young adults were triaged to less urgent times and required lower rates of admission, which suggests that at least a portion of the health care provided could have been done in the outpatient setting, says Fortuna.
“Access to a usual source of primary care is associated with improved overall health outcomes and lower rates of preventable emergency department use,” says Fortuna.
“Improving health access for young adults will require a multifaceted approach to expand health care coverage, improve transition between adolescent and adult care, and increase overall awareness of the importance for young adults to establish a usual source of care.”
University of Rochester health news: www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/