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.
Although the overall life
expectancy increased dramatically for adults with Down syndrome, CDC research has
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. The authors postulated that this discrepancy is a function
of the following:
Quite simply, adults with Down
syndrome living 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. Depending on the nurses role and scope
of employment, nursing interventions may include:
CDC. (2001) Racial Disparities in Median Age at Death of Persons With Down Syndrome --- United States, 1968--1997. MMWR 2001. 50(22);463-5.
National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS). Facts About Down Syndrome. Retrieved 9/15/2010. http://www.nads.org/resources/facts-about-down-syndrome/
Yang, Q., Rasmussen, S.A. & Friedman, J.M. (2002) Mortality associated with Downs syndrome in the USA from 1983 to 1997: a population-based study. The Lancet 359: 1019-1025.