Unexplained anemia of aging: Etiology, health consequences, and diagnostic criteria.



Up to 15% of people aged 60 and over are anemic, and the prevalence of anemia increases with age. In older men and women, anemia is associated with increases in the risk of death and all-cause hospitalization, poor functional capacity, quality of life, and depression.

Methods and results

We reviewed the literature describing anemia in aging populations, focusing on the specific diagnostic criteria of anemia and potential causes in older men and women. Even after extensive etiologic workup that involves careful medical history, physical examination, laboratory measurements, and additional studies such as bone marrow biopsy, anemia of aging is unexplained in up to 40% of older patients with anemia. As a result, treatment options remain limited.


The prevalence of unexplained anemia of aging (UAA; also called unexplained anemia of the elderly, UAE), its deleterious impacts on health, physical function, and quality of life, and the lack of effective treatment or therapy guidelines represent a compelling unmet clinical need. In this review and consensus document, we discuss the scope of the problem, possible causes of UAA, diagnostic criteria, and potential treatment options. Because even mild anemia is strongly linked to poor clinical outcomes, it should receive clinical attention rather than simply being considered a normal part of aging.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Guralnik, Jack, William Ershler, Andrew Artz, Alejandro Lazo-Langner, Jeremy Walston, Marco Pahor, Luigi Ferrucci, William J Evans, et al. (2022). Unexplained anemia of aging: Etiology, health consequences, and diagnostic criteria. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 70(3). pp. 891–899. 10.1111/jgs.17565 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/25082.

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William Joseph Evans

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine

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