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Older adults account for about 70-85% of annual flu-related deaths in the United States.2

The severity of influenza varies from year to year, but always brings more severe illness to older adults.3 During 2010-2020, between 87,816 to 466,766 flu-related hospitalizations among people 65 years or older were estimated each year in the United States. 4,5

Older adults experience longer hospital stays than younger adults.6 Older adults are at increased risk of requiring a move to assisted living or nursing home care after influenza hospitalization.7


Complications from influenza can lead to life-threatening conditions in older adults. Serious complications include3:

Myocarditis, encephalitis, myositis, or rhabdomyolysis
Multi-organ failure (e.g., respiratory and kidney failure)
Respiratory tract infection leading to an extreme inflammatory response and sepsis.

Those Living With Chronic Diseases

Influenza is particularly dangerous for adults living with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart and lung conditions.8,9 Many adults remain unaware that they have a chronic disease, and ensuring that they get vaccinated provides a layer of protection for these potentially vulnerable people.


In recent influenza seasons, people with diabetes account for about 30% of adult flu hospitalizations.9

Heart conditions

Patients with heart disease, or those who had a stroke, have a higher risk of developing serious complications from influenza, including myocarditis, inflammation of muscle tissues, heart attack, and multi-organ failure.8,10,11

Lung conditions

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)8,12, asthma8, or other lung conditions8,12 also have a higher risk of complications from influenza. Since people with these conditions have sensitive airways, inflammation caused by the flu can make COPD symptoms worse, trigger asthma attacks, and easily lead to the development of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.8


Immunosenescence is the biological aging process associated with progressive decline in systemic immunity. This gradual deterioration of the immune system, brought on by natural aging, can cause increased susceptibility to common infectious diseases, including influenza, among older adults.1, 13

Additionally, inflamm-aging, a chronic progressive increase in the proinflammatory status of the older adult, contributes to all aging-related diseases and renders older adults more vulnerable to complications as a result of infection with influenza.14


Even when they recover from the flu, older adults may never fully regain their pre-influenza health, abilities, and lifestyle.7,10 Moreover, for months after getting the flu, older adults may still be at increased risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attack or stroke, due to lingering inflammation and an increased risk of blood clots associated with infections like influenza.1,11

1. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Call to Action: Reinvigorating Influenza Prevention in U.S. Adults Age 65 Years and Older. Accessed September 2022. 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu & People 65 Years and Older. Accessed September 2022. 3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Symptoms & Complications. Accessed September 2022. 4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimated Influenza Illnesses, Medical Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths in the United States – 2017-2018 influenza season. Accessed September 2022. 5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Burden Estimates for the 2011-2012 Influenza Season. Accessed September 2022. 6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Study Shows Hospitalization Rates and Risk of Death from Seasonal Flu Increase with Age Among People 65 Years and Older. Accessed September 2022. 7. Jhung MA, D’Mello T, Perez A. et al. Hospital-onset influenza hospitalizations – United States, 2021-2011. Am J Infect Control. 2013;42(1):7-11. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2013.06.018 8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at High Risk for Flu Complications. Accessed September 2022. 9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu and People with Diabetes. Accessed September 2022. 10. Chow E, Rolfes MA, Acute Cardiovascular Events Associated with Influenza in Hospitalized Adults: A Cross-sectional Study. Ann Intern Med. 2020;173(8):605-613. doi:10.7326/M20-1509 11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu & People with Heart Disease or History of Stroke. Accessed September 2022. 12. Coleman BL, Fadel SZ, Fitzpatrick T. et al. Risk factors for serious outcomes associated with influenza illness in high- versus low- and middle-income countries: Systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2018;12(1):22-29. doi:10.1111/irv.12504
13. Aw D, Silva AB, Palmer DB. Immunosenescence: emerging challenges for an ageing population. Immunology. 2007;120(4):435-446. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2567.2007.02555.x 14. Xia S, Zhang X, Zheng S, et al. An Update on Inflamm-Aging: Mechanisms, Prevention, and Treatment. J Immunol Res. 2-16;2015:8426874. doi:10.1155/2016/8426874

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