Background: There are few data on morbidity and mortality patterns among the elderly in Africa, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The aim of this study was to determine the causes of death among the elderly population in the internal medicine wards of a tertiary health institution in South East Nigeria.
Methods: This was a retrospective study conducted on patients 60 years and older, who died in the medical wards of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital between January 1995 and January 2010. Relevant information was obtained from their case notes and death certificates.
Results: Six thousand, two hundred and fifty patients died during the period of this study. Out of this, 1941 were aged ≥ 60 years, giving a death rate of 31.1%; 63.1% were males, 36.9% were females. The mean age at death for the males was 69.9 ± 7.9 years and for the females 69.1 ± 7.5 years (p < 0.033). The overall mean age at death was 69.6 ± 7.7 (range 60–102) years. The most common diagnosis at death among the men was stroke (11%), chronic kidney disease (5.7%) and diabetic complications (5.5%). Among the women, it was stroke (8.4%), heart failure (3%) and chronic kidney disease (2.5%).
Conclusion: The three most common causes of death among males and females were chronic non-communicable diseases. The importance of the prevention, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of the underlying diseases and their complicaitons cannot be overemphasized.