Epidemiology of the homebound population in the United States

Katherine A. Ornstein, Bruce Leff, Kenneth E. Covinsky, Christine S. Ritchie, Alex D. Federman, Laken Roberts, Amy S. Kelley, Albert L. Siu, Sarah L. Szanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE Increasing numbers of older, community-dwelling adults have functional impairments that prevent them from leaving their homes. It is uncertain how many people who live in the United States are homebound. OBJECTIVES To develop measures of the frequency of leaving and ability to leave the home and to use these measures to estimate the size of the homebound population in the US population. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS Cross-sectional data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study collected in 2011 in the contiguous United States. Participants were a nationally representative sample of 7603 noninstitutionalized Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES We defined homebound persons as those who never (completely homebound) or rarely (mostly homebound) left the home in the last month.We defined semihomebound persons as those who only left the home with assistance or had difficulty or needed help leaving the home.We compared demographic, clinical, and health care utilization characteristics across different homebound status categories. RESULTS In 2011, the prevalence of homebound individuals was 5.6%(95%CI, 5.1%-6.2%), including an estimated 395 422 people who were completely homebound and 1 578 984 people who were mostly homebound. Among semihomebound individuals, the prevalence of those who never left home without personal assistance was 3.3%(95%CI, 2.8%-3.8%), and the prevalence of those who required help or had difficulty was 11.7%(95%CI, 10.9%-12.6%). Completely homebound individuals were more likely to be older (83.2 vs 74.3 years, P < .001), female (67.9% vs 53.4%, P < .006), and of nonwhite race (34.1%vs 17.6%, P < .001) and have less education and income than nonhomebound individuals. They also had more chronic conditions (4.9 vs 2.5) and were more likely to have been hospitalized in the last 12 months (52.1% vs 16.2%) (P < .001 for both). Only 11.9%of completely homebound individuals reported receiving primary care services at home. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE In total, 5.6%of the elderly, community-dwelling Medicare population (approximately 2 million people) were completely or mostly homebound in 2011. Our findings can inform improvements in clinical and social services for these individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1180-1186
Number of pages7
JournalJAMA internal medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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