Effectiveness of Non-Pharmacological Interventions to Prevent Falls in Older People: A Systematic Overview. The SENATOR Project ONTOP Series

PLoS One. 2016 Aug 25;11(8):e0161579. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161579. eCollection 2016.


Background: Falls are common events in older people, which cause considerable morbidity and mortality. Non-pharmacological interventions are an important approach to prevent falls. There are a large number of systematic reviews of non-pharmacological interventions, whose evidence needs to be synthesized in order to facilitate evidence-based clinical decision making.

Objectives: To systematically examine reviews and meta-analyses that evaluated non-pharmacological interventions to prevent falls in older adults in the community, care facilities and hospitals.

Methods: We searched the electronic databases Pubmed, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, PEDRO and TRIP from January 2009 to March 2015, for systematic reviews that included at least one comparative study, evaluating any non-pharmacological intervention, to prevent falls amongst older adults. The quality of the reviews was assessed using AMSTAR and ProFaNE taxonomy was used to organize the interventions.

Results: Fifty-nine systematic reviews were identified which consisted of single, multiple and multifactorial non-pharmacological interventions to prevent falls in older people. The most frequent ProFaNE defined interventions were exercises either alone or combined with other interventions, followed by environment/assistive technology interventions comprising environmental modifications, assistive and protective aids, staff education and vision assessment/correction. Knowledge was the third principle class of interventions as patient education. Exercise and multifactorial interventions were the most effective treatments to reduce falls in older adults, although not all types of exercise were equally effective in all subjects and in all settings. Effective exercise programs combined balance and strength training. Reviews with a higher AMSTAR score were more likely to contain more primary studies, to be updated and to perform meta-analysis.

Conclusions: The aim of this overview of reviews of non-pharmacological interventions to prevent falls in older people in different settings, is to support clinicians and other healthcare workers with clinical decision-making by providing a comprehensive perspective of findings.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Clinical Decision-Making*
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Nursing Homes
  • Treatment Outcome

Grant support

This work was supported by the European Union Seventh Framework program (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement n° 305930 (SENATOR; http://www.senator-project.eu/) and by the ICT PSP (Policy Support Program) as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Program of the EU under grant agreement n° 325087 (ProFouND; http://profound.eu.com/). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.