Interventions to Prevent Falls in Older Adults: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

JAMA. 2018 Apr 24;319(16):1705-1716. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.21962.


Importance: Falls are the most common cause of injury-related morbidity and mortality among older adults.

Objective: To systematically review literature on the effectiveness and harms of fall prevention interventions in community-dwelling older adults to inform the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Data sources: MEDLINE, PubMed, Cumulative Index for Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials for relevant English-language literature published through August 2016, with ongoing surveillance through February 7, 2018.

Study selection: Randomized clinical trials of interventions to prevent falls in community-dwelling adults 65 years and older.

Data extraction and synthesis: Independent critical appraisal and data abstraction by 2 reviewers. Random-effects meta-analyses using the method of DerSimonian and Laird.

Main outcomes and measures: Number of falls (number of unexpected events in which a person comes to rest on the ground, floor, or lower level), people experiencing 1 or more falls, injurious falls, people experiencing injurious falls, fractures, people experiencing fractures, mortality, hospitalizations, institutionalizations, changes in disability, and treatment harms.

Results: Sixty-two randomized clinical trials (N = 35 058) examining 7 fall prevention intervention types were identified. This article focused on the 3 most commonly studied intervention types: multifactorial (customized interventions based on initial comprehensive individualized falls risk assessment) (26 trials [n = 15 506]), exercise (21 trials [n = 7297]), and vitamin D supplementation (7 trials [n = 7531]). Multifactorial intervention trials were associated with a reduction in falls (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.79 [95% CI, 0.68-0.91]) but were not associated with a reduction in other fall-related morbidity and mortality outcomes. Exercise trials were associated with statistically significant reductions in people experiencing a fall (relative risk, 0.89 [95% 13 CI, 0.81-0.97]) and injurious falls (IRR, 0.81 [95% CI, 0.73-0.90]) and with a statistically nonsignificant reduction in falls (IRR, 0.87 [95% CI, 0.75-1.00]) but showed no association with mortality. Few exercise trials reported fall-related fractures. Seven heterogeneous trials of vitamin D formulations (with or without calcium) showed mixed results. One trial of annual high-dose cholecalciferol (500 000 IU), which has not been replicated, showed an increase in falls, people experiencing a fall, and injuries, while 1 trial of calcitriol showed a reduction in falls and people experiencing a fall; the remaining 5 trials showed no significant difference in falls, people experiencing a fall, or injuries. Harms of multifactorial and exercise trials were rarely reported but generally included minor musculoskeletal injuries.

Conclusions and relevance: Multifactorial and exercise interventions were associated with fall-related benefit, but evidence was most consistent across multiple fall-related outcomes for exercise. Vitamin D supplementation interventions had mixed results, with a high dose being associated with higher rates of fall-related outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Vitamin D / adverse effects
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamins / adverse effects
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D