Racial-Ethnic Differences in Fall Prevalence among Older Women: A Cross-Sectional Survey Study

BMC Geriatr. 2017 Mar 11;17(1):65. doi: 10.1186/s12877-017-0447-y.


Background: Falls are the leading cause of hip fracture in older women, with important public health implications. Fall risk increases with age and other clinical factors, and varies by race/ethnicity. International studies suggest that fall risk is lower in Asians, although data are limited in U.S.

Populations: This study examines racial/ethnic differences in fall prevalence among older U.S. women within a large integrated healthcare delivery system.

Methods: This cross-sectional study used data from 6277 women ages 65-90 who responded to the 2008 or 2011 Kaiser Permanente Northern California Member Health Survey (KPNC-MHS). The KPNC-MHS is a mailed questionnaire sent to a random sample of adult members stratified by age, gender, and geographic location, representing a population estimate of >200,000 women age ≥65 years. Age, race/ethnicity, self-reported health status, presence of diabetes, arthritis or prior stroke, mobility limitations and number of falls in the past year were obtained from the KPNC-MHS. The independent association of race/ethnicity and recent falls was examined, adjusting for known risk factors.

Results: The weighted sample was 76.7% non-Hispanic white, 6.2% Hispanic, 6.8% black and 10.3% Asian. Over 20% reported having fallen during the past year (28.5% non-Hispanic white, 27.8% Hispanic, 23.4% black and 20.1% Asian). Older age was associated with greater fall risk, as was having diabetes (OR 1.24, CI 1.03-1.48), prior stroke (OR 1.51, CI 1.09-2.07), arthritis (OR 1.61, CI 1.39-1.85) and mobility limitations (OR 2.82, CI 2.34-3.39), adjusted for age. Compared to whites, Asian (OR 0.64, CI 0.50-0.81) and black (OR 0.73, CI 0.55-0.95) women were much less likely to have ≥1 fall in the past year, adjusting for age, comorbidities, mobility limitation and poor health status. Asians were also less likely to have ≥2 falls (OR 0.62, CI 0.43-0.88).

Conclusions: Among older women, the risk of having a recent fall was substantially lower for black and Asian women when compared to white women. This may contribute to their lower rates of hip fracture. Future studies should examine cultural and behavioral factors that contribute to these observed racial/ethnic differences in fall risk among U.S. women.

Keywords: Falls; Older women; Race/ethnicity; Risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls* / prevention & control
  • Accidental Falls* / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Hip Fractures* / ethnology
  • Hip Fractures* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Mobility Limitation*
  • Prevalence
  • Random Allocation
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology