More older adults report falling

More older adults are reporting falls, according to a research letter published online by JAMA Internal Medicine, but the authors aren’t sure whether seniors are falling more or just reporting more.

Christine T. Cigolle, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined time trends in falling in a nationally representative sample of middle-aged and older participants in the Health and Retirement Study, which is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. They defined falling as at least one self-reported fall in the preceding two years.

The investigators found that, among those aged 65 or more years, the two-year prevalence of self-reported falls increased from 28.2 percent in 1998 to 36.3 percent in 2010, the last year studied. Data for adults aged up to 89 years were scrutinized, and the trend was most apparent at the younger end of the range studied. The presence of disease did not seem to be related.

“We observed an increase in fall prevalence among older adults that exceeds what would be expected owing to the increasing age of the population,” the authors wrote. “Programs such as Matter of Balance focus on making older adults aware of balance and fall risk and provide strategies to reduce fall risk; these programs may improve reporting. Alternatively, if a true increase in falling is occurring, then further research is needed to identify possible reasons, such as an increase in fall risk factors (e.g., cardiovascular and psychiatric medications) or an increase in fall risk behavior.”

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