Rates of emergency department use greater among women and low-income, older, and rural Americans

Research Activities, January 2011, No. 365

Americans aged 18 and older made over 98 million trips to hospital emergency departments in 2008 for problems including broken bones and heart attacks, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). This represents 78 percent of the nearly 125 million visits that year. AHRQ also found that injuries and abdominal pain were among the most frequent acute conditions seen in hospital emergency departments, while heart problems and diabetes were among the chronic conditions most commonly seen.

The Agency's analysis also found that rates of emergency department visits were:

  • 90 percent higher for Americans living in low-income areas compared with those living in the highest income areas (544 visits vs. 287 visits per 1,000 people).
  • 24 percent higher for Americans aged 65 and older compared with those aged 18 to 44 (550 visits vs. 444 visits per 1,000 people).
  • 39 percent higher for Americans living in rural areas compared with those living in urban areas (515 visits vs. 372 visits per 1,000 people).
  • 26 percent higher for women than for men (477 visits versus 378 visits per 1,000 people).

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Emergency Department Visits for Adults in Community Hospitals, 2008. The report uses statistics from the 2008 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS), a new AHRQ database that is nationally representative of emergency department visits in short-term, community non-Federal hospitals. The NEDS (http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/nedsoverview.jsp) contains 26 million records from emergency department visits from approximately 1,000 hospitals nationwide. This represents 20 percent of all U.S. hospital emergency departments.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at Bob.Isquith@ahrq.hhs.gov or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of January 2011
Internet Citation: Rates of emergency department use greater among women and low-income, older, and rural Americans: Research Activities, January 2011, No. 365. January 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jan11/0111RA23.html