Diabetes mellitus and risk of falls in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Age Ageing. 2016 Nov;45(6):761-767. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afw140. Epub 2016 Aug 11.


Background: intensive or very loose glycemic control may contribute to the risk of falls in diabetic patients. However, studies on diabetes mellitus and the risk of falls have yielded conflicting results. Our objective was to investigate the effect of diabetes mellitus on the risk of falls in older adults by conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Methods: the PubMed and Embase databases were searched for relevant studies published until November 2015. Only prospective cohort studies reporting at least age-adjusted risk estimate of falls compared diabetic to non-diabetic individuals were selected. Diabetes mellitus was ascertained by a combination of medical history and laboratory tests or use of anti-diabetic drugs.

Results: a total of six studies involving 14,685 participants were identified. The number of falls in diabetic and non-diabetic individuals was 423 of 1,692 (25.0%) and 2,368 of 13,011 (18.2%), respectively. Diabetes mellitus was associated with an increased risk of falls (risk ratio [RR] = 1.64; 95% confidence intervals [CI] 1.27-2.11) in a random-effects model. Subgroup analyses showed that the risk of falls seemed more pronounced among both gender groups (RR = 1.81; 95% CI 1.19-2.76) than among women (RR = 1.52; 95% CI 1.04-2.21). Diabetes increased 94% (RR = 1.94; 95% CI 1.42-2.63) and 27% (RR = 1.27; 95% CI 1.06-1.52) risk of falls in insulin-treated and no-insulin-treated patients, respectively.

Conclusions: this meta-analysis reveals that older adults with diabetes mellitus are associated with greater risk of falls, and this association is more pronounced in insulin-treated patients.

Keywords: diabetes mellitus; falls; meta-analysis; older people; risk factors; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Complications / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Complications / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Complications / prevention & control*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Insulin / adverse effects
  • Insulin / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin