A meta-analysis of fall prevention programs for the elderly: how effective are they?

Nurs Res. Jan-Feb 2002;51(1):1-8. doi: 10.1097/00006199-200201000-00002.


Background: Although fall prevention studies for the elderly have been reported, there is a paucity of work summarizing the effectiveness of these interventions.

Objectives: The research question that guided this study was: 'What are the effects of fall prevention programs on the proportion of falls in the elderly?"

Method: Meta-analysis was employed to summarize findings of intervention studies of fall prevention in the elderly involving a comparison group and a quantifiable outcome. Studies were reviewed by two of the authors with the eligibility criteria in mind. Studies were then coded and an inter-rater reliability check was performed.

Results: The overall mean weighted effect size for the 12 studies included in the meta-analysis was .0779 (Z = 5.03, p < .001). For fall prevention intervention types, exercise alone had a mean weighted effect size of .0220 (Z = .5303, p > .5), exercise and risk modification had a mean weighted effect size of .0687 (Z = 3.41, p < .001), and comprehensive risk assessment intervention studies had an effect size of .1231 (Z = 3.97, p < .001). The mean weighted effect size size for community-based studies was .0972 (Z = 5.37, p < .001) and for institution-based studies was .0237 (Z = .7822, p = .22). Time to outcome measure analyses revealed that the mean weighted effect size for studies measuring proportion of falls at 12 months was .0905 (Z = 5.43, p < .001), and those measuring at four months or less was -.0972 (Z = -.005, p > .50).

Conclusions: The results of this meta-analysis indicate that there was a 4% decrease in the rate of falls for individuals who were in the treatment groups receiving various fall prevention interventions. Additional intervention studies need to be conducted in the elderly population with a goal of preventing falls.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans