Harvard Health Letter

Avoid landing back in the hospital

Get help with discharge instructions and try to stay active.

Being readmitted to the hospital soon after being discharged is a common problem for all older Americans. But men are at a significantly higher risk of returning for emergency room care or a hospital stay within a month after discharge than are women, according to a recent study published in BMJ Open. "Men in certain populations may not have social support, which leads them to being at higher risk for readmission," says Dr. Jeffrey Schnipper, director of clinical research for the Brigham and Women's hospitalist services.

Men at greater risk

Medication errors at home are a common reason why people wind up back in the hospital after discharge. In fact, Dr. Schnipper just led a study that found even the help of a pharmacist at the time of discharge didn't prevent medication errors. The BMJ Open study attributed the higher readmission rates in men to factors indicating social isolation. Men were 72% more likely to return if they were single, and 53% more likely if they were depressed. Being retired was also a risk factor for men. "If you're socially isolated you don't have someone making sure you're following through on your discharge plan, telling you to keep that doctor appointment or take your medications," Dr. Schnipper explains. "It makes a difference."

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