The first step in getting your arms around the issue of falls is to get a picture of the problem. As you can see from the following statistics, age plays a big role in falls and their outcomes:
- Every year, more than 30% of U.S. adults 65 and older fall. Falls are the leading cause of death in this age group.
- Falls are the most common cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions in people 65 and older. (In 2005, 1.8 million people were treated in hospital ERs for non-fatal falls.)
- Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls.
- The most common fractures involve the spine, hip, pelvis, arm, hand, leg, and ankle.
- The rate of fall-related deaths among older adults has increased over the past decade.
Falls are expensive. In 2000, direct medical costs added up to $179 million for fatal falls and $19 billion for non-fatal fall-related injuries. And their impact reverberates far beyond dollar costs into our social fabric:
- Bruises, hip fractures, and head trauma-suffered by 20 to 30% of those who fall limit mobility and make independent living difficult or impossible.
- Falls increase the risk of early death.
- Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. They respond by limiting their activities. Ironically, this response reduces their mobility and independence, decreases physical fitness, and increases the chance of falling.