Life Expectancy

Because of improved public health policy and advances in medical care, the average life span of people in the United States has increased dramatically; up to 74.1 years for men and 79.5 years for women. We see the same trend in people with Down syndrome, but they still have a shorter lifespan than the general population. In recent decades, life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has more than doubled, from 25 years in 1983 to 60 years today. it is unusual for them to reach 65 years of age.

Yang, Rasmussen, and Friedman (2002) extracted information from the death certificates of 17,897 individuals with Down syndrome who died in the United States between 1983 and 1997. The median age at death increased dramatically, from 25 years in 1983 to 49 years in 1997, or an average of 1.7 years per year studied. In contrast, the median age of the population in general increased only .2 years per year during this same period of time. The major causes of death in people with Down syndrome were congenital heart defects and respiratory infections. Except for leukemia and testicular cancer, malignancies were reported much less frequently in individuals with Down syndrome.


INSTANT FEEDBACK:
In general, adults with Down syndrome die sooner and of different causes than the population at large.
True
False



The authors postulate that the following factors contributed to the increasing life expectancy of people with Down syndrome:

Although the overall life expectancy increased dramatically for adults with Down syndrome, the researchers found that the improvement was most noticeable in whites with Down syndrome. Blacks and people of other races had a significantly shorter lifespan than whites with Down syndrome. The authors postulated that this discrepancy is a function of the following:


INSTANT FEEDBACK:
According to Yang, Rasmussen and Friedman, blacks with Down syndrome have shorter lifespans than whites with Down syndrome because of their genetic makeup.
True
False


Quite simply, adults with Down syndrome are live longer and healthier lives if they receive good quality preventive health care, have adequate community support, and have the education and resources to take care of themselves. Nurses have an obligation to ensure that their patients have access to these basic components.

Yang, Rasmussen and Friedman’s study has found racial disparity in lifespan, nurses need to be vigilant to ensure that their patients all receive are not white. Depending on the nurse’s role and scope of employment, nursing interventions may include:


INSTANT FEEDBACK:
Nurses can do little to enhance the life expectancy of their adult patients with Down syndrome.
True
False