Summary: The purpose of this study was to review the evidence of the economic burden of falls in old age. This review showed that falls are a relevant economic burden. Efforts should be directed to fall-prevention programmes.
Introduction: Falls are a common mechanism of injury and a leading cause of costs of injury in the elderly. The purpose of this study was to review for the first time the evidence of the economic burden caused by falls in old age.
Methods: A systematic review was conducted in the databases of PubMed, of the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination and in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews until June 2009. Studies were assessed for inclusion, classified and synthesised. Costs per inhabitant, the share of fall-related costs in total health care expenditures and in gross domestic products (GDP) were calculated. If appropriate, cost data were inflated to the year 2006 and converted to US Dollar (USD PPP).
Results: A total of 32 studies were included. National fall-related costs of prevalence-based studies were between 0.85% and 1.5% of the total health care expenditures, 0.07% to 0.20% of the GDP and ranged from 113 to 547 USD PPP per inhabitant. Direct costs occurred especially in higher age groups, in females, in hospitals and long-term care facilities and for fractures. Mean costs per fall victim, per fall and per fall-related hospitalisation ranged from 2,044 to 25,955; 1,059 to 10,913 and 5,654 to 42,840 USD PPP and depended on fall severity. A more detailed comparison is restricted by the limited number of studies.
Conclusion: Falls are a relevant economic burden to society. Efforts should be directed to economic evaluations of fall-prevention programmes aiming at reducing fall-related fractures, which contribute substantially to fall-related costs.