Falls among older general practice patients: a 2-year nationwide surveillance study

Fam Pract. 2014 Jun;31(3):281-9. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmu002. Epub 2014 Feb 15.


Background: Falling among older persons is a multifactorial health condition needing multifactorial care. Several targeted preventive interventions and their coordination are considered to be general practitioner (GP)-specific tasks.

Objectives: To estimate the incidence of falls among older non-institutionalized general practice patients in Belgium (2009-10) and to describe the main characteristics of falls, fallers and fall risks; factors associated with multiple fall risks and the co-occurrence of fall risks; patient status 3 months later and care delivery.

Methods: A 2-year nationwide cross-sectional study based on data collected by the Belgian network of Sentinel General Practices on all non-institutionalized persons aged ≥65 years consulting their GP for new fall-related injuries.

Results: Baseline data were collected on 1503 persons and valid follow-up data were available on 715 persons (79%). The yearly incidence of older persons with fall-related injuries was estimated at 2.5% of the older general practice population; 39% of patients had also received hospital care, physician-specialist or nursing home care. A multifactorial risk profile was observed in 59% and associated with increasing age, recurrent falling, falling at home and during lower level activity. The clustering of frailty-specific fall risks was higher than expected by chance. At follow-up, 46% of at-risk patients had received physical therapy, 47% were using assistive devices, and medication had been reviewed in 28% of patients taking psychopharmacy and 17% of patients with polypharmacy.

Conclusions: Our study shows a high burden of care for fall-related injuries in older general practice patients and provides baseline data for its future monitoring.

Keywords: Accidental falls; comorbidity; family practice; public health surveillance..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Polypharmacy
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Help Devices
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology