Falls are a leading cause of unintentional injury, disability and death among older people.

Rates of falls

Australian and international studies have identified that approximately one and three people aged 65 years and over fall each year, with 10 per cent having multiple falls and more than 30 per cent experiencing injuries requiring medical attention.

The rates of falls and associated injuries are higher for older people in hospital settings and residential care (Hill et al. 2004).

Impact of falls

The impact of falls on the person, their family and society, as well as on the health system, can be considerable (World Health Organisation 2007).

As people age, the risk of fall-related hospitalisation increases (Ambrose et al. 2015; Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare 2009).

Risk factors for falls

Factors that increase the risk of falls include a past history of falls, frailty, comorbidity (especially cardiac conditions, renal conditions and diabetes) and cognitive impairment.

Other factors include hazardous home environments, uneven road and footpath environments, as well as socioeconomic factors such as social isolation, living in regional and remote areas, and limited availability or access to health services and aged care (World Health Organization 2007).

Data about falls in Victoria

Data from Monash University's Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit shows that:

  • From July 2017 to June 2018, 31,693 Victorian adults aged over 65 years were admitted to hospital after a fall. The admission rate was higher for females at 3,997 per 100,000 persons compared with 2,406 per 100,000 persons.
  • During the period July 2017 to June 2018, falls related hospital admission rates increased with age. In the 65 to 69-year age group, the admission rate was 1,096 per 100,000 persons compared with an admission rate of 4,879 per 100,000 persons for those in the 80 to 84-year age group.
  • Between July 2012 and June 2018, the falls related hospital admission rate for adults aged over 65 years increased by 20 per cent, from 2,713 per 100,000 persons in 2012–13 to 3,259 per 100,000 persons in 2017–18, as shown in Figure 1.
  • Falls related hospital admissions are expected to increase as the population ages.
Line graph showing the steady rise in fall-related admissions from 2012–2018 
Figure 1: Falls-related hospital admission for adults aged 65+ expressed as population per 100,000 persons

Source: Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit, Monash University.

Prevention of falls

The Victorian Government adopts a strategic primary prevention approach to falls and fall-related injury prevention (Department of Health and Human Services 2015).

Falls and fall-related injury can be reduced through behavioural change and a healthy lifestyle and environmental modification. 

Effective approaches include strength and balance exercises, cataract surgery, home safety assessment and modifications by occupational therapists and reducing psychotropic medications. 

Healthcare providers have an important role to play in openly discussing falls risk with older people, identifying risk factors and tailoring appropriate prevention strategies and referrals.

What older people can do

Older people are encouraged to talk about all falls (including ones that didn’t cause injury) with their partners, family, carers, GPs and other health care providers, to help identify and address risk factors and to reduce the chance of repeat falls.

Older people can also maintain their strength and physical activity and participate in regular strength and balance exercises in their own home or in group exercise and recreational settings. 

They should eliminate or reduce their use of ladders for home maintenance tasks and either seek assistance from friends and family, or visit MyAgedCare for home maintenance assistance provided by local councils and local aged care service providers.

Find out more

The Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit, Monash University, provides Victorian falls data.

References

Ambrose AF, Cruz L and Paul G 2015, ‘Falls and fractures: a systematic approach to screening and prevention’, Maturitas, vol. 82, no. 1.

Australian Commission for Quality and Safety in Healthcare 2009a, Preventing falls and harm from falls in older people: best practice guidelines for Australian community care, Commonwealth Government of Australia, Canberra.

Department of Health and Human Services 2015, Victorian public health and wellbeing plan 2015–2019, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne. 

Hill K, Vrantsidis F, Haralambous B, Fearn M, Smith R, Murray K, Sims J and Dorevich M 2004, An analysis of research on preventing falls and falls injury in older people: community, residential care and hospital settings (2004 update), National Ageing Research Institute and Centre for Applied Gerontology, Melbourne.

Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit 2018, Victorian Admitted Episodes Data (VAED), VISU-held Cause of Death (COD) dataset, supplied by the Australian Coordinating Registry (ACR) and based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) cause of death data.. 

World Health Organization 2007, WHO global report on falls prevention in older age, World Health Organization, Geneva.

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