Impacts of Aging


Lead Author(s): 

Jonathan S. Kirschner, MD, RMSK
Se Won Lee, MD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

The mean age at the time of spinal cord injury increased from 29 years in the 1970s to 42 years in 2016.1 Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries are increasing, in part, due to the aging of the population and the concurrent age-related health conditions with a greater likelihood of minor events causing a SCI, like falls in an arthritic or stenotic spine. There is a possibility non-traumatic SCI will surpass the incidence of traumatic SCI in the future.2 The lifespan for SCI survivors has not changed since the 1980’s, and remains significantly shorter than for healthy counterparts. In 2016, for persons who survived the first 24-hours post injury, life expectancy for a 20-year old with the lowest level SCI is 52.6 years and for a 20-year old with a high tetraplegia 35.7 years. Comparable life expectancy for a 60-year old at time of injury is 17.9 years for a low level injury and 8.1 years for a high level tetraplegia, respectively.1 SCI survivors report more health problems, with significant impacts on physical function and quality of life posing greater challenges in aging SCI survivors.3

  • 1. a. b. Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Facts and Figures at a Glance. J Spinal Cord Med 2016;39(3):370-1. Accessed May 18, 2017.
  • 2. New PW, Marshall R. International spinal cord injury data sets for non-traumatic spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord 2014;52(2):123-32.
  • 3. Groah SL, Charlifue S, Tate D, et al. Spinal cord injury and aging: challenges and recommendations for future research. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2012;91(1):80-93.


  • Fourth Edition

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