Summary: Our objective was to determine international estimates of the economic burden of falls in older people living in the community. Our systematic review emphasized the need for a consensus on methodology for cost of falls studies to enable more accurate comparisons and subgroup-specific estimates among different countries.
Introduction: The purpose of this study was to determine international estimates of the economic burden of falls in older people living in the community.
Methods: This is a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal articles reporting estimates for the cost of falls in people aged > or =60 years living in the community. We searched for papers published between 1945 and December 2008 in MEDLINE, PUBMED, EMBASE, CINAHL, Cochrane Collaboration, and NHS EED databases that identified cost of falls in older adults. We extracted the cost of falls in the reported currency and converted them to US dollars at 2008 prices, cost items measured, perspective, time horizon, and sensitivity analysis. We assessed the quality of the studies using a selection of questions from Drummond's checklist.
Results: Seventeen studies met our inclusion criteria. Studies varied with respect to viewpoint of the analysis, definition of falls, identification of important and relevant cost items, and time horizon. Only two studies reported a sensitivity analysis and only four studies identified the viewpoint of their economic analysis. In the USA, non-fatal and fatal falls cost US $23.3 billion (2008 prices) annually and US $1.6 billion in the UK.
Conclusions: The economic cost of falls is likely greater than policy makers appreciate. The mean cost of falls was dependent on the denominator used and ranged from US $3,476 per faller to US $10,749 per injurious fall and US $26,483 per fall requiring hospitalization. A consensus on methodology for cost of falls studies would enable more accurate comparisons and subgroup-specific estimates among different countries.