Prevalence, risk factors, and burden of disease for falls and balance or walking problems among older adults in the U.S.


Department of Biostatistics, Mailman School of Public Health and School of Nursing, Columbia University, New York, NY, United States of America. Electronic address: [Email]


This study assesses the prevalence of falls, factors predicting future falls, and health impacts of falls and balance or walking problems for U.S. older adults. Data were from participants ≥65 years in the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey Cohort 15 (baseline survey in 2012; follow-up survey in 2014; n = 164,597). We examined baseline factors predicting falls at follow-up and estimated the impact of falls and balance/walking problems on health-related quality of life (HRQOL), mortality, and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). About 23% reported falls and 34% reported balance/walking problems in the past 12 months. The strongest predictors of falls were previous falls [adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 2.9] and balance/walking problems (OR = 1.7). Many self-reported chronic conditions (e.g., depression, stroke, and diabetes), geriatric symptoms (e.g., urine leakage), and limitations of activities of daily living (e.g., transferring and walking) also predicted falls, but at a smaller magnitude (ORs = 1.1-1.3). Having balance/walking problems was associated with a greater decrease in HRQOL scores (0.195 points) than falls (0.077 points), while falls were associated with a greater increase in mortality [adjusted hazard ratio (HR) = 1.5] than balance/walking problems (HR = 1.1). Falls were associated with a 4.6-year (48%) decrease in QALYs, while balance/walking problems was associated with a 7.3-year (62%) decrease in QALYs. Falls are a major problem for U.S. elderly and will continue to have an even greater impact as the population ages. The nearly 50% decrease in QALYs for falls and >60% decrease for balance or walking problems demonstrates the substantial burden associated with these problems among older Americans.


Falls,Health-related quality of life (HRQOL),Mortality,Quality-adjusted life year (QALY),