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The aim of this article was to identify specific systemic factors associated with existence of pressure ulcers (PUs) and the effect on survival from the time of admission. Patients admitted to the Skilled Nursing Department of the Herzog Hospital, Jerusalem, between 1 July 2008 and 31 December 2011. Of the 174 admitted patients (mean age: 77·4 ± 13·2 years), 107 (61·5%) had pre-existing PUs and 67 (38·5%) did not have PUs. Major systemic factors were assessed for each patient at the time of admission: sociodemographic characteristics, comorbidities, use of urinary catheter, tube feeding and tracheostomy; nutritional state; Global Deterioration Scale, Glasgow Coma Scale and Norton Scale. Complications such as the number of provided antibiotic courses, and length and outcomes of hospitalisation were identified at the end of the study. In the univariate analysis, patients in the PU group had significantly prevalent characteristics including advanced age, low cognitive and consciousness function, low Norton scale, Parkinson's disease and anaemia due to chronic diseases, low nutritional parameters and higher number of antibiotics provided. Conditions that were associated with PUs in multiple regression analyses included advanced dementia (OR = 3·0, 95% CI: 1·4–6·3; P = 0·002), urinary catheter usage (OR = 2·25, 95% CI: 1·06–4·7; P = 0·03), low body mass index, BMI (OR = 0·92, 95% CI: 0·86–0·99; P = 0·02) and anaemia level (OR = 0·7, 95% CI: 0·58–0·9; P = 0·004). The median survival time of patients with PUs was significantly lower than the non PUs group (94 versus 414 days, respectively) (P = 0·005, log rank test). Length of stay was also significantly lower in the PU group (166 versus 270 days, P = 0·02). The existence of PUs may indicate a final common pathway of various systemic factors (geriatric conditions, diseases and frailty dysfunction).