Context: Although various fall-induced injuries and deaths among older adults are increasing, little is known about the epidemiology of these events.
Objective: To determine the trends in the number and incidence of fall-induced injuries and deaths of older adults in a well-defined white population.
Design and setting: Secular trend analysis of the population of Finland, using the Finnish National Hospital Discharge Register and the Official Cause-of-Death Statistics of Finland.
Participants: All persons aged 50 years or older who were admitted to hospitals in Finland for primary treatment of a first fall-induced injury from the years of 1970 to 1995, and for comparison, all fall-induced deaths in the same age group from the years 1971 to 1995.
Main outcome measure: The number and the age-specific and age-adjusted incidence rate (per 100000 persons) of fall-induced injuries and deaths in each year of the study.
Results: For the study period, both the total and population-adjusted number (per 100000 persons) of Finns aged 50 years or older with fall-induced injury increased substantially. Total fall-induced injuries increased from 5622 in 1970 to 21 574 in 1995, a 284% increase, and the rate increased from 494 to 1398 per 100000 persons, a 183% increase. The age-adjusted incidence also increased in both women (from 648 in 1970 to 1469 in 1995, a 127% increase) and men (from 434 in 1970 to 972 in 1995, a 124% increase). Moreover, the number of deaths due to falls in the overall population increased from 441 in 1971 to 793 in 1995, an 80% increase, and the rate increased from 38 in 1971 to 51 in 1995, a 34% increase. However, after age adjustment the incidence of fall-induced death did not show a clear upward trend.
Conclusions: In a well-defined white population, the number of older persons with fall-induced injuries is increasing at a rate that cannot be explained simply by demographic changes. Preventive measures should be adopted to control the increasing burden of these injuries. Fortunately, the age-adjusted incidence of the fall-induced deaths shows no increasing trend over time.