August 12, 2010

Hospitalization Rates by Age

This one is not really directly related to personal finance.   But its a bit of data I think is useful to know cause it relates to picking health insurance.

 Lets say you're considering a purchase of health insurance.   You can get a policy with a deductible of $6,000 for $300 a month or a policy with a $1000 deductible for $600 a month.   That high deductible policy is cheaper unless you have a serious medical expense.   As an individual its hard to know how likely a major medical expense is.   But you can approximate the likelihood of a very high medical bill by looking at how frequently people of different ages are in the hospital.    I figured it would be useful to figure out the rate at which people are hospitalized.   If you know what percentage of people in your age are in the hospital in a given year then that can give you a rough indication of the likelihood of you being hospitalized yourself.

This is just a very rough calculation only meant for ballpark estimation purposes.   Plus of course every individual is different and a healthy 60 year old may have cheaper bills than a reckless 20 year old.

The CDC has data on hospitalization rates.   That information is from 2006 but its close enough for approximation purposes.

The percent of hospitalizations per age group:

Under age 15 = 7% of patients
15 to 44 years = 31%
45 to 64 = 25%
>65 = 38%

That report said that there were 34.9 million patients discharged from non federal short stay hospitals in the year, excluding new born babies. 

You can find a distribution of the population based on age at this page for the year 2000.  Again I think that 2000 is a little old but close enough for ballpark approximation.

Percent of Population by age :
Under age 15 = 21% of the population
15 to 44 years = 44%
45 to 64 = 22%
>65 = 12%

We can combined the two pieces of information above to find out what % of a given age is hospitalized in a year (roughly).   There were 281M people in 2006.   21% of those people were under age 15.  SO there were about 59M people under the age of 15.   There were 34.9 patients in the hospital and 7% of those were under age 15.  So there were about 2.4 million people under age 15 in the hospital.   Therefore if 2.4 million people under age 15 were in the hospital and 59M people total are under age 15 then about 4% or one in 25 people under age 15 were in the hospital in 2006.   Applying that kind of math to each age group results int eh following:

% of population hospitalized in given year by age groups
Under age 15 = 4.1%
15 to 44 years = 5.3%   (8.7%  including childbirth)*
45 to 64 = 14.1%
>65 =38%

Likelihood of hospitalization

Under age 15 = 1 in 24.7
15 to 44 years =  1 in 18.8  ( 1 in 11.5 including births)*
45 to 64 =  1 in 7.1
>65 = 1 in 2.6

[edit : I originally figured this without considering the impact from women giving birth to children.  However a large % of the women in the hospital for ages 15-44 are the to give birth to children and that threw the numbers off a lot so I adjusted it to remove hospitalization due to childbirth.]

Again this is VERY rough calculation and is not taking into account things like individuals having multiple hospital stays.   Its meant as a very rough ballpark estimate of how often people in various age groups go to the hospital.   Also note that theres probably a significant difference within the large groups so a 16 year old person is probably much different than a 43 year old person.   Men and women are hospitalized at different rates and part of that is due to giving birth.

Ballpark I'd say that about 1 in 10 adults are hospitalized in a given year and about 1 in 3 senior citizens goes to the hospital.


  1. Thanks for the post. Not enough people take a look at the facts and figures when discussing healthcare, so great job on that.

    I would have liked to see the age profiles broken down into smaller categories. I wonder if the 65+ is just because everyone has medicare and has very cheap, if not free hospital visits.

  2. Older people aren't in the hospital more 'just' cause they have insurance. People over 65 are significantly more likely to get ill. e.g. cancer rates are 10-20 times as high for people in their 60's or 70's compared to people in their 30's.


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