Falls in Older Adults, New York State

Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths, hospitalizations and emergency department visits among adults 65 and older. Falls can result in lasting, serious consequences, affecting mobility, independence and mental health.

Falls are not accidents! They are not random, uncontrollable acts of fate, but occur in predictable patterns, with recognizable risk factors and among identifiable populations. A fall is a predictable and preventable event.

Magnitude of the Falls Problem

  • Every day, because of a fall:

    • 2 older New Yorkers die
    • 140 older New Yorkers are hospitalized
    • 223 older New Yorkers are seen in emergency departments
  • Falls account for:

    • $1.7 billion in annual hospitalization charges and
    • $145.3 million in annual outpatient emergency department changes.

    Approximately 95% of the hospitalization charges are billed to publicly funded programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare.

  • Among adults 65 and older who are hospitalized due to a fall:

    • 60% end up in a nursing home or rehabilitation center
    • 11% suffer a traumatic brain injury
    • 27% experience a hip fracture
  • Fall injuries among older adults in New York State are increasing!

    From 1999 to 2008:

    • Rate of fall-related deaths increased 15%
    • Rate of fall-related hospitalizations increased 19%

    New York State Residents Ages 65 and Older
    Fall Injuries -- Yearly Average Number
    Result of Fall Injuries Number of Injuries
    Death 900
    Hospitalizations 51,231
    Outpatient Emergency Department Visits 81,233
    Other Medical Teatment or Untreated Unknown Number

    New York State Residents Ages 65 and Older
    Year Deaths Due to Falls Hospitalizations Due to Falls
    Annual Frequency Rate per 100,000 Annual Frequency Rate per 100,000
    1999 771 31.7 41,443 1,705.7
    2000 764 31.1 42,567 1,735.4
    2001 787 31.9 42,367 1,719.9
    2002 858 34.7 43,351 1,750.9
    2003 874 35.2 47,358 1,904.6
    2004 865 34.6 48,030 1,920.3
    2005 933 37.1 48,947 1,946.2
    2006 834 33.1 49,837 1,975.6
    2007 914 35.9 50,372 1,978.2
    2008 952 36.5 52,858 2,027.0

Many Falls are the Result of Multiple Risk Factors Working in Concert

  • Who is at Risk?

    • Males have a higher risk of death due to falls
    • Females have a higher risk of hip fracture due to falls
    • Aging increases the risk of falling and the severity of a fall injury
    • People who have previously fallen are at an increased risk to fall again
    • People who suffer from sleep disturbances are at an increased risk of falling
  • What Conditions Increase the Risk of Falling?

    • Leg weakness is associated with a 4-fold increase in the risk of falling
    • Problems with gait and balance are associated with a 3-fold increase in the risk of falling
    • Vision impairment increases the risk of falling by 2.5 times
    • Chronic conditions such as Parkinson's disease, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis and incontinence increase the risk of falling
    • A fear of falling leads to loss of confidence, an avoidance of physical activity, an increased functional decline, and ultimately an increased risk of falling
    • Taking four or more medications puts older adults at risk for falling
  • Where is the Risk?

    • 60% of fall-related hospitalizations in older adults occur in the home
    • 36% of fall-related emergency department visits in older adults occur in the home

    New York State Residents Ages 65 and Older
    Place Percentage of Visits by Place of Fall
    Hospitalizations Emergency Department Visits
    Home 60% 36%
    Street and Highway 3% 5%
    Public Building 3% 4%
    Residential Institution 15% 11%
    Other 10% 16%
    Unspecified 9% 28%
  • Home Hazards Include:

    • Clutter in walkways and on stairs
    • Slippery or inconsistent flooring surfaces
    • Unstable furniture
    • Poor/inadequate lighting
    • Pets and pet-related objects
    • Lack of stair railings or grab bars
    • Lack of easy access bathrooms

Prevention Strategies

  • What reduces the risk of falling?

    • Medication review
    • Home assessments with modification
    • Exercise
    • Annual vision exams
  • Falls are the leading cause of injury among New Yorkers over 65 - they CAN be prevented!

For More Information

For more information on fall prevention please contact:

New York State Department of Health
Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention
Empire State Plaza-Corning Tower, Room 1336
Albany, New York 12237
PHONE: (518) 473-1143
FAX: (518) 474-3067
E-MAIL: injury@health.state.ny.us

Your health care provider is also an excellent resource about fall injuries and prevention. Web resources include: