Falls in elderly people: a multifactorial analysis of risk markers using data from the Swedish general population study ‘Good Ageing in Skåne’
Background and aims
The aim of this study was to describe the prevalence of falls in a general older population, especially among the most elderly, and the risk markers associated with falls.
This is a cross-sectional study in which 38 fall risk markers were analysed in non-, occasional- and frequent-fallers. The population was 2,865 individuals (aged 60–93), randomly selected from the general population register. The risk of falling was calculated as age-adjusted odds ratios. The relation between the number of risk markers for an individual and falls was also analysed.
About one in ten reported falling during the past 6 months, 35 % of which were over 90 years old. Twenty-one risk markers were significantly related to falls confirming falling as a multifactorial problem. These included a variety of diseases, symptoms, medical and physical functions, life-style factors and the taking of certain drugs. The five risk markers with the highest odds ratio in frequent fallers were ‘tendency to fall’ (37.9), ‘low walking speed’ (12.8), consumption of ‘neuroleptics’ (10.9), ‘impaired mobility’ (10.0) and ‘dementia’ (5.4). Subjects with more than four and seven risk markers showed a 9- respectively 28-fold increase in the risk of falling, especially among frequent fallers and those aged over 90 years.
Falls are common in the elderly population and the risk is multifactorial. The results imply that there is an overrepresentation of fallers in a distinct subgroup of the very elderly and those with multiple risk markers. The self-perceived clinical sign ‘tendency to fall’ seems highly sensitive as indicator of individuals at risk. Several risk markers may be treatable. Fall risk seems to increase in a non-linear, almost exponential way with increasing number of risk markers.
KeywordsAccidental falls General population Epidemiology Risk factors Elderly
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