This is a systematic review and meta-analysis aimed at providing a comprehensive and quantitative review of risk factors for falls in older people in nursing homes and hospitals. Using MEDLINE, we searched for prospective studies investigating risk factors for falls in nursing home residents (NHR) and older hospital inpatients (HI). When there were at least 3 studies investigating a factor in a comparable way in a specific setting, we computed the pooled odds ratio (OR) using random effect models. Twenty-four studies met the inclusion criteria. Eighteen risk factors for NHR and six for HI were considered, including socio-demographic, mobility, sensory, medical factors, and medication use. For NHR, the strongest associations were with history of falls (OR=3.06), walking aid use (OR=2.08) and moderate disability (OR=2.08). For HI, the strongest association was found for history of falls (OR=2.85). No association emerged with age in NHR (OR=1.00), while the OR for a 5years increase in age of HI was 1.04. Female sex was, if anything, associated with a decreased risk. A few other medical conditions and medications were also associated with a moderately increased risk. For some important factors (e.g. balance and muscle weakness), a summary estimate was not computed because the measures used in various studies were not comparable. Falls in older people in nursing homes and hospitals have multifactorial etiology. History of falls, use of walking aids and disability are strong predictors of future falls.
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