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 a similar 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 and many living into their sixties and seventies (NADS).

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



raceThe 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, 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:


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 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 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



References

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 Down’s syndrome in the USA from 1983 to 1997: a population-based study. The Lancet 359: 1019-1025.