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New CDC study underscores impact of older adult falls

CDC releases new resources to help prevent falls

For Immediate Release: March 6, 2008


Contact: Gail Hayes
CDC, Injury Media Relations
Phone: (770) 488-4902



About five percent of all people over age 65 had to see a health care provider or restrict their activity due to a fall during a three-month period, according a study today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An estimated 5.8 million adults over age 65 reported they fell at least once in the previous three months, and 1.8 million of them sought medical help or restricted their activity for at least a day, said the study in the CDC′s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

To estimate the frequency of a broad range of fall injuries, the researchers analyzed data from the CDC′s 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. In an effort to improve recall accuracy, elders were asked if they had fallen and been injured within the previous three months. Researchers caution that this is a snapshot and should not be used to estimate the number of annual falls.

Among other findings:

  • No difference existed in the percentage of men and women who reported falling in the previous three months, but about 36 percent of women reported injuries compared to about 25 percent of men.
  • American Indian/Alaska Natives reported the highest percentage of falls (28 percent).
  • About 30 percent of people who fell reported sustaining an injury that led them to visit a health care provider or restrict their activity for at least a day.

As the U.S. population ages, the problem of older adult falls is expected to increase.

“We want to help our elders and their children or caregivers to know that there are ways to ensure older adults can live better and longer,” said Dr. Ileana Arias, director of CDC′s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “It′s important that people can live healthy and independent lives without fear of falling. To help, CDC has developed several new guides and resources that describe the best ways to reduce the risk of falls. We believe this will help older adults remain self-sufficient, longer.”

For communities, CDC has three resources that can help them develop effective fall prevention programs for seniors.

  • Preventing Falls: What Works. A Compendium of Effective Community-based Interventions from Around the World contains 14 community-based actions or activities that have proven effective in reducing falls among older adults. This resource gives public health practitioners and community organizations descriptions and relevant details about these interventions.
    www.cdc.gov/ncipc/preventingfalls

  • Preventing Falls: How to Develop Community-based Fall Prevention Programs for Older Adults provides community-based organizations with a guide for developing fall prevention programs. This useful how-to describes the building blocks of effective fall prevention programs and gives examples, resources, and tips for creating, promoting, and evaluating a fall prevention program.
    www.cdc.gov/ncipc/preventingfalls

  • “Help Seniors Live Better, Longer: Prevent Brain Injury” is an initiative developed in collaboration with 26 organizations to help children of older adults and other caregivers prevent, recognize, and respond to fall-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) among older adults. This initiative features easy-to-use English- and Spanish-language materials for caregivers and older adults, as well as event and media guides for organizations and public health professionals.
    www.cdc.gov/BrainInjuryinSeniors

CDC also has easy to read brochures in English, Spanish and Chinese to help seniors and their caregivers prevent falls. To learn more about CDC′s work in preventing older adult falls, visit www.cdc.gov/injury.

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