Study data suggest increase in falls among elderly

During a 12-year period, the prevalence of self-reported falls among older adults appeared to be on the rise, according to findings from a new nationally representative study.

Researchers analyzed data from 1998 to 2010 among adults 65 years and older and found an 8% increase in falls — a relative increase of nearly 30%.

 “We expected an increase because older adults are getting older and there are more 80- and 90-year-old adults than before, but we were very surprised to find that the increase in falls was not due to the changing demography,” Christine Cigolle, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the departments of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan, research scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Christine Cigolle

“We saw a higher number of falls across all age groups — not just the oldest — and that was unexpected,” Cigolle said.

Cigolle and colleagues looked at trends in falling within a nationally representative sample of middle-aged and older adults in the Health and Retirement Study, conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research on behalf of the National Institute of Aging.

Falling was defined as at least one self-reported fall in the preceding 2 years. Among all adults 65 years and older, the 2-year prevalence of self-reported falls increased from about 28% in 1998 to 36% in 2010.

Despite the greater prevalence of reported falls, however, the researchers did not find that older adults were reporting more fall injuries.

Further research is needed to identify possible reasons behind the numbers, such as an increase in fall risk factors (eg, cardiovascular and psychiatric medications that may have side effects like dizziness) or an increase in fall risk behavior.


Cigolle C. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7533.

Disclosure: Cigolle is supported by grant K08 AG031837 from the National Institute on Aging.

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