Seven hundred and four women aged between 65 and 99 years (mean age 74.6 years), who were randomly selected from the community, took part in a study to determine whether health and lifestyle factors were associated with falls. In the 12 months before the survey, 66.1 per cent of the subjects experienced no falls, 19.7 per cent fell once and 14.2 per cent fell on two or more occasions. The proportion of women who fell outside the home decreased with age, with a corresponding increase in the proportion who fell inside the home on a level surface. The most common causes of falls reported were trips, slips and loss of balance. Some (27 per cent) suffered injuries as a result of a fall, and the proportion suffering injuries increased with age. Those who rated their health and balance as impaired, those with a limitation in activities of daily living, those receiving community services, those taking psychoactive drugs, and those taking four or more drugs had significantly more falls. On the other hand, those taking part in planned exercise and those active for seven or more hours per week had fewer falls. Smoking and alcohol consumption were not significantly associated with falls. Stepwise logistic regression analysis revealed poor vision, inactivity and subjective fall risk as variables that were independently and significantly associated with falling. These findings highlight possible intervention strategies for reducing falls risk in older people.