Health needs of older populations affected by humanitarian crises in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review


Massey et al. Conflict and Health (2017) 11:29
DOI 10.1186/s13031-017-0133-x



The combination of global demographic changes and a growing number of humanitarian crises in middle-income countries that have a higher life expectancy has led to an increase in the number of older populations affected by humanitarian crises. The aim of this review was to systematically examine evidence on the health needs of older populations in humanitarian crises, including both armed conflicts and natural disasters, in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).


A systematic review methodology was used. The search strategy used terms related to older populations and humanitarian crises in LMICs. Five bibliographic databases were used, along with relevant grey literature sources. Descriptive analysis was used, and a quality assessment conducted using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale and CASP instruments.


A total of 36 studies were eligible for review. The majority of the studies were cross-sectional, three were cohort studies, and four used qualitative methodologies. The main health outcomes were mental health, physical health, functioning, and nutrition. Vulnerability factors included older age, female gender, being widowed, increased exposure to traumatic events, prior mental health problems, low income and education, and rural residency. Ten studies addressed the responsiveness of health systems and access to such services. The quality of the included studies was generally low.


There is an urgent need to strengthen the evidence base on the health needs of older populations in humanitarian crises.