The epidemiology of falls and syncope

Clin Geriatr Med. 2002 May;18(2):141-58. doi: 10.1016/s0749-0690(02)00002-2.


Falls, syncope, and the associated complications are among the most serious problems that face the elderly population. The most common underlying causes and risk factors for falls include muscle weakness, gait and balance problems, visual impairment, cognitive impairment, depression, functional decline, and particular medications (especially in the presence of environmental hazards). Studies have identified the relative risks for these factors that enable a fairly accurate prediction of who is at high risk for falls and what areas to target for falls-prevention activity. Causes and risk factors for syncope have not been studied as well in the older population. The most serious types of syncope have underlying cardiac etiologies but they cause less than 25% of the reported cases. The largest category of syncope (approximately 40%) is syncope of unknown etiology, which defies careful diagnostic evaluation but seems to be fairly benign. The epidemiology of these syndromes can provide extremely helpful insights for developing falls-prevention strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Syncope / epidemiology*
  • Syncope / etiology