The overdose death rate among adults 65 and older doubled over the course of a decade, according to a new report from UnitedHealth Group. The rate of deaths rose from 4.2 per 100,000 to 8.4 per 100,000 between 2008-2010 and 2018-2020.
Overdose deaths among adults ages 65 to 74 increased 147% during that time period, according to Axios. The report also found a 13% increase in suicide rates among those ages 65 and older since 2009-2011, and a 9% increase in the prevalence of depression among those ages 65 and older since 2011.
The overdose death rate in 2018-2020 was 10.4 times higher among Black adults ages 65 and older compared with older Asian adults, the group with the lowest rate.
The report noted there are a variety of reasons why older adults are particularly at risk for overdoses. They may unintentionally misuse prescription medications such as opioids. They are more likely to take multiple prescription medications, and face other risk factors including social isolation. The report noted older adults are less able to metabolize medications due to age-related changes in the liver.