BACKGROUND: Older persons may suffer more from travel-related health problems because of ageing and underlying chronic disorders. Knowledge on who is more likely to have these health problems helps to tailor travel health advice more specifically. This study aimed to determine predictors of travel-related morbidity in older travellers by assessing their pre-travel characteristics and performance using physical and cognitive functioning tests. METHODS: Multicentre prospective cohort study among older travellers (≥60 years) who consulted one of the participating Dutch travel clinics. Handgrip strength and cognitive performance were measured pre-travel. Participants completed questionnaires before departure and 1 and 4 weeks after return. A diary recorded health complaints during travel until 2-week post-travel. RESULTS: In total, 477 travellers completed the study (follow-up rate of 97%). Participants' median age was 66 years. The most visited regions were South-East Asia (34%) and South Asia (14%). Median travel duration was 19 days. Polypharmacy (≥5 medications per day) was not uncommon (16%). The median Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) score was 0. Self-reported travel-related infectious diseases concerned primarily respiratory tract infections (21%) and gastroenteritis (10%) whereas non-infectious complaints were injuries (13%), peripheral edema (12%) and dehydration (3%). Medical assistance was sought by 18%, mostly post-travel from their general practitioner (87%). Self-reported physical and mental health-related quality of life significantly improved during and after travel. Predictors for an increased risk of travel-related morbidity were higher CCI score, more travel experience, longer travel duration, higher number of daily medications, visiting northern Africa or South-East and East Asia, and phone and social media use. CONCLUSION: Older Dutch travellers are generally fit, well-prepared and suffer not only from common infectious health problems, but also from injuries. Travel improved their self-perceived health. The predictors could be used to identify the more at-risk older traveller and to decrease travel-related morbidity by optimizing pre-travel advice.

comorbidity, grip strength, infectious diseases, Older traveller, polypharmacy, predictors, travel medicine
dx.doi.org/10.1093/jtm/taaa216, hdl.handle.net/1765/134438
Journal of Travel Medicine

Vlot, J.A. (Jessica A.), Vive, M.G.D. (Marissa G D), Brockhoff, H.J. (Henricus J.), van Genderen, P.J.J. (Pieter J J), Trompenaars, M.-C.E. (Marie-Christine E), van Steenbergen, J.E, & Visser, L.G. (Leonardus G.). (2021). Predicting morbidity in older travellers during a short-term stay in the tropics: the ELDEST study. Journal of Travel Medicine, 28(1). doi:10.1093/jtm/taaa216