Incidence of and Risk Factors for Falls and Injurious Falls among the Community-dwelling Elderly


Jennifer L. O’Loughlin, Yvonne Robitaille, Jean-François Boivin and Samy Suissa

To determine the frequency of and risk factors fo falls and injurious falls in the noninstitutionalized elderly, the authors conducted a follow-up study of 409 community-dwelling persons aged 65 years or more in west-central Montreal, Quebec, Canada, from May 1987 to October 1988. Following an initial at-home interview, each subject was telephoned every 4 weeks for 48 weeks for collection of data on falls experienced since the last contact. Each of the 12 follow-up interviews was completed by at least 90% of the subjects eligible for interview. Data were also collected in the follow-up interviews on time-varying exposures. Twenty-nine percent of the subjects fell during follow-up; 17.6% fell once, and 11.5% fell two or more times. The incidence rate for falls was 41.4 falls per 1,000 person-months. The majority of falls resulted in no injury or in minor injury only. Potential risk factors investigated included sociodemographic variables, physical activity, alcohol consumption, acute and chronic health problems, dizziness, mobility, and medications. Multivariate analyses showed that the following factors were statistically significantly associated with an increased rate of falls: dizziness (incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 2.0), frequent physical activity (IRR = 2.0), having days on which activities were limited because of a health problem (IRR = 1.8), having trouble walking 400 m (IRR = 1.6), and having trouble bending down (IRR = 1.4). Factors which were protective included diversity of physical activities (IRR = 0.6), daily alcohol consumption (IRR = 0.5), having days spent in bed because of a health problem (IRR = 0.5), and taking heart medication (IRR = 0.6). Risk factors for injurious falls were similar.

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