Get access

A concept analysis of malnutrition in the elderly


Cheryl Chia-Hui Chen, Yale University School of Nursing, 100 Church Street South, PO Box 9740, New Haven, CT 06536-0740, USA. E-mail:


A concept analysis of malnutrition in the elderly

Purpose. Malnutrition is a frequent and serious problem in the elderly. Today there is no doubt that malnutrition contributes significantly to morbidity and mortality in the elderly. Unfortunately, the concept of malnutrition in the elderly is poorly defined. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the meaning of malnutrition in the elderly and to develop the theoretical underpinnings, thereby facilitating communication regarding the phenomenon and enhancing research efforts.

Scope, sources used. Critical review of literature is the approach used to systematically build and develop the theoretical propositions. Conventional search engines such as Medline, PsyINFO, and CINAHL were used. The bibliography of obtained articles was also reviewed and additional articles identified. Key wards used for searching included malnutrition, geriatric nutrition, nutritional status, nutrition assessment, elderly, ageing, and weight loss.

Conclusions. The definition of malnutrition in the elderly is defined as following: faulty or inadequate nutritional status; undernourishment characterized by insufficient dietary intake, poor appetite, muscle wasting and weight loss. In the elderly, malnutrition is an ominous sign. Without intervention, it presents as a downward trajectory leading to poor health and decreased quality of life. Malnutrition in the elderly is a multidimensional concept encompassing physical and psychological elements. It is precipitated by loss, dependency, loneliness and chronic illness and potentially impacts morbidity, mortality and quality of life.