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New research published – which frail older people are dehydrated?

A new research study from the University of East Anglia has found a high prevalence, 20% or one in five, of dehydration in older people living in UK long-term care. Dehydration was associated with poor cognition, poor renal function, and being diabetic.

Click here to access the abstract online, and the other versions of the paper.

Read the abstract of the paper below:

Which frail older people are dehydrated?  The UK DRIE study. Hooper L, Bunn DK, Downing A, Jimoh FO, Groves J, Free C, Cowap V, Potter JF, Hunter PR, Shepstone L.  Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences A.  Published online 9th Nov 2015.  doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv205


Water-loss dehydration in older people is associated with increased mortality and disability. We aimed to assess the prevalence of dehydration in older people living in UK long-term care and associated cognitive, functional, and health characteristics.


The Dehydration Recognition In our Elders (DRIE) cohort study included people aged 65 or older living in long-term care without heart or renal failure. In a cross-sectional baseline analysis, we assessed serum osmolality, previously suggested dehydration risk factors, general health, markers of continence, cognitive and functional health, nutrition status, and medications. Univariate linear regression was used to assess relationships between participant characteristics and serum osmolality, then associated characteristics entered into stepwise backwards multivariate linear regression.


DRIE included 188 residents (mean age 86 years, 66% women) of whom 20% were dehydrated (serum osmolality >300 mOsm/kg). Linear and logistic regression suggested that renal, cognitive, and diabetic status were consistently associated with serum osmolality and odds of dehydration, while potassium-sparing diuretics, sex, number of recent health contacts, and bladder incontinence were sometimes associated. Thirst was not associated with hydration status.


DRIE found high prevalence of dehydration in older people living in UK long-term care, reinforcing the proposed association between cognitive and renal function and hydration. Dehydration is associated with increased mortality and disability in older people, but trials to assess effects of interventions to support healthy fluid intakes in older people living in residential care are needed to enable us to formally assess causal direction and any health benefits of increasing fluid intakes.