Physical Consequences of Falls Part II

An Aging Population will Lead to Mounting Fall-Related Health-Care Costs

Brian E. Maki, PhD, PEng
Professor, Department of Surgery and Institute of Medical Science,
University of Toronto; and Senior Scientist,
Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre

It is well established that falling is a common occurrence in persons aged 65 and older. Among those living independently, 30-60% will fall one or more times each year,1-3 and the falling rate is even higher among those living in long-term or acute-care institutions.4,5 Although the degree to which the falling rate among older adults differs from that among younger adults has not been well established, it is clear that falls in older persons are much more likely to result in serious physical and psychosocial consequences. The first part of this two-part article dealt with the fear of falling and other psychosocial correlates of falls, which has tended to be an under appreciated aspect of the problem. The now forthcoming second part, will focus on what has, historically, received the most attention-the physical consequences of falls.

Although the majority of falls do not result in serious physical injury, the societal costs associated with fall-related injuries are immense. Falls are, in fact, the leading cause of fatal injuries among seniors, accounting for twice as many deaths in this population as motor vehicle accidents.