Background: Serious fall injury represents a little studied, yet common and potentially preventable, cause of morbidity and mortality among older persons. We determined the frequency of, and risk factors for, experiencing serious fall injury events among older persons in the community.
Subjects: A representative sample of 1103 community-living persons aged 72 years and older underwent comprehensive baseline and 1-year evaluations.
Main outcome measures: During a median 31 months of follow-up, fall data were obtained using fall calendars. Injury data were obtained from telephone interviews and from surveillance of emergency room and hospital records.
Results: At least one fall was experienced by 546 (49%) participants. A total of 123 participants, representing 23% of fallers and 12% of the cohort, experienced 183 serious fall injury events. The factors independently associated with experiencing a serious injury during a fall included cognitive impairment (adjusted odds ratios 2.2; 95% confidence interval 1.5, 3.2); presence of at least two chronic conditions (2.0; 1.4, 2.9); balance and gait impairment (1.8; 1.3, 2.7); and low body mass index (1.8; 1.2, 2.5). In a separate analysis, including only subjects who fell, female gender (1.8; 1.1, 2.9) as well as most of the above factors were associated with experiencing a fall injury.
Conclusions: Several readily identifiable factors appeared to distinguish the subgroup of older fallers at risk for suffering a serious fall injury. These factors should help guide who and what to target in prevention efforts.