Falls and their consequences are serious health problems among older populations. To study predisposing and precipitating factors for falls among older people in residential care we used a cross-sectional study design with a prospective follow up for falls. Fifty-eight women and 25 men, with a mean age of 79.6 y, were included and prospectively followed up regarding falls for a period of 1 y after baseline assessments. All those who fell were assessed regarding factors that might have precipitated the fall. The incidence rate was 2.29 falls/person years. Antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs), impaired vision and being unable to use stairs without assistance were independently associated with being a 'faller'. Twenty-eight (53.8%) of the fallers suffered injuries as a result of their falls, including 21 fractures. Twenty-seven percent of the falls were judged to be precipitated by an acute illness or disease and 8.6% by a side effect of a drug. Acute symptoms of diseases or drug side effects were associated with 58% of the falls which resulted in fractures. We conclude that SSRIs seem to constitute one important factor that predisposes older people to fall, once or repeatedly. Since acute illnesses and drug side-effects were important precipitating factors, falls should be regarded as a possible symptom of disease or a side-effect of a drug until it is proven otherwise.