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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Geriatrics - Non-Clinical Medicine - Physiology - Public Health and Epidemiology

The Personal and Health Service Impact of Falls in 85 Year Olds: Cross-Sectional Findings from the Newcastle 85+ Cohort Study
Published: Friday, March 09, 2012
Author: Joanna Collerton et al.

by Joanna Collerton, Andrew Kingston, John Bond, Karen Davies, Martin P. Eccles, Carol Jagger, Thomas B. L. Kirkwood, Julia L. Newton

Introduction

Falls are common in older people and increase in prevalence with advancing old age. There is limited knowledge about their impact in those aged 85 years and older, the fastest growing age group of the population. We investigated the prevalence and impact of falls, and the overlap between falls, dizziness and blackouts, in a population-based sample of 85 year olds.

Methods

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from Newcastle 85+ Cohort Study. Setting: Primary care, North-East England. Participants: 816 men and women aged 85 years. Measurements: Structured interview with research nurse. Cost-consequence analysis of fall-related healthcare costs.

Results

Over 38% (313/816) of participants had fallen at least once in the previous 12 months and of these: 10.6% (33/312) sustained a fracture, 30.1% (94/312) attended an emergency department, and 12.8% (40/312) were admitted to hospital. Only 37.2% (115/309) of fallers had specifically discussed their falls problem with their general practitioner and only 12.7% (39/308) had seen a falls specialist. The average annual healthcare cost per faller was estimated at £202 (inter-quartile range £174–£231) or US$329 ($284–$377). ‘Worry about falling’ was experienced by 42.0% (128/305) of fallers, ‘loss of confidence’ by 40.0% (122/305), and ‘going out less often’ by 25.9% (79/305); each was significantly more common in women, odds ratios (95% confidence interval) for women: men of 2.63 (1.45–4.55), 4.00 (2.27–7.14), and 2.86 (1.54–5.56) respectively. Dizziness and blackouts were reported by 40.0% (318/796) and 6.4% (52/808) of participants respectively. There was marked overlap in the report of falls, dizziness and blackouts.

Conclusions

Falls in 85 year olds are very common, associated with considerable psychological and physical morbidity, and have high impact on healthcare services. Wider use of fall prevention services is needed. Significant expansion in acute and preventative services is required in view of the rapid growth in this age group.

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