Introduction: Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injuries in the U.S.; however, national estimates for all community-dwelling adults are lacking. This study estimated the national incidence of falls and fall-related injuries among community-dwelling U.S. adults by age and gender and the trends in fall-related injuries across the adult life span.
Methods: Nationally representative data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) 2008 Balance and Dizziness supplement was used to develop national estimates of falls, and pooled data from the NHIS was used to calculate estimates of fall-related injuries in the U.S. and related trends from 2004-2013. Costs of unintentional fall-related injuries were extracted from the CDC's Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System.
Results: Twelve percent of community-dwelling U.S. adults reported falling in the previous year for a total estimate of 80 million falls at a rate of 37.2 falls per 100 person-years. On average, 9.9 million fall-related injuries occurred each year with a rate of 4.38 fall-related injuries per 100 person-years. In the previous three months, 2.0% of older adults (65+), 1.1% of middle-aged adults (45-64) and 0.7% of young adults (18-44) reported a fall-related injury. Of all fall-related injuries among community-dwelling adults, 32.3% occurred among older adults, 35.3% among middle-aged adults and 32.3% among younger adults. The age-adjusted rate of fall-related injuries increased 4% per year among older women (95% CI 1%-7%) from 2004 to 2013. Among U.S. adults, the total lifetime cost of annual unintentional fall-related injuries that resulted in a fatality, hospitalization or treatment in an emergency department was 111 billion U.S. dollars in 2010.
Conclusions: Falls and fall-related injuries represent a significant health and safety problem for adults of all ages. The findings suggest that adult fall prevention efforts should consider the entire adult lifespan to ensure a greater public health benefit.