Background: weather predictions are a useful tool for informing public health planning and prevention strategies for non-injury health outcomes, but the association between winter weather warnings and fall-related injuries has not been assessed previously.
Objective: to examine the association between fall-related injuries among older adults and government-issued winter weather warnings.
Methods: using a dynamic cohort of individuals ≥65 years of age who lived in Montreal between 1998 and 2006, we identified all fall-related injuries from administrative data using a validated set of diagnostic and procedure codes. We compared rates of injuries on days with freezing rain or snowstorm warnings to rates observed on days without warnings. We also compared the incidence of injuries on winter days to non-winter days. All analyses were performed overall and stratified by age and sex.
Results: freezing rain alerts were associated with an increase in fall-related injuries (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 1.20, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.08-1.32), particularly among males (IRR = 1.31, 95% CI: 1.10-1.56), and lower rates of injuries were associated with snowstorm alerts (IRR = 0.89, 95% CI: 0.80-0.99). The rate of fall-related injuries did not differ seasonally (IRR = 1.00, 95% CI: 0.97-1.03).
Conclusions: official weather warnings are predictive of increases in fall-related injuries among older adults. Public health agencies should consider using these warnings to trigger initiation of injury prevention strategies in advance of inclement weather.
Keywords: accidental falls; aged; epidemiology; incidence; weather, older people.
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