Why are falls a problem?

Falls are common in people aged 65 and over, with 30-40% falling at least once a year. One in four falls results in an injury and a small portion result in a serious injury e.g. hip fracture. If you have fallen in the last 12 months, you are more likely to fall again. Falls can affect older peoples’ quality of life (e.g. avoid activities they once enjoyed as result of concern about falling) and their ability to live independently. Understanding what factors contribute to falls helps to determine the best way to intervene to prevent falls – because we know that falls can be prevented.

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What causes falls in older people?

People can fall for many reasons, in some cases a number of factors can combine and lead to a fall. The reason or causes of falls are known as risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to fall. Falls can be a sign of poor balance, weak muscles, poor vision, chronic disease and many other factors. Falls can also be a sign of a new medical problem and should be discussed with your doctor. Some risk factors for falls are outlined below:


  • Your health
    e.g. poor vision, arthritis, stroke incontinence, cognitive decline, illness, physical inactivity
  • Your mental health
    e.g. depression, dementia, anxiety, fear of falling, confusion
  • Your physical condition
    e.g. poor balance, weak muscles, slow reaction time, slow walking speed
  • Medications
    e.g. medication side effects, 4+ medicine, sleeping tablets
  • Environmental hazards
    e.g. poor lighting, trip hazards, footwear
Key points to remember
  • As you get older, you are more likely to have weak muscles and instability, which can lead to falls
  • Many falls can be prevented
  • By identifying and managing your risk factors, you can reduce your risk of falling
  • Even if you haven’t had a fall, reducing your risk of falling in the future is important
  • Exercise is the most effective action you can take to prevent falls
  • Improving your balance can help to reduce your concern about falling, increase your balance confidence and prevent falls


What can I do right now?
  • Identify your fall risk factors, a health professional can help you do this e.g. GP or physiotherapist
  • Incorporate balance exercise that is challenging but safe (e.g. have something sturdy to hang onto if you need) into your exercise regime
  • Talk to health care professionals if you have any concerns regarding your fall risk
  • Correct vision problems e.g. cataract surgery, consider single lens glasses for outdoor mobility
  • Manage any cardiovascular risks e.g. arrhythmias
  • Manage foot pain and problems (see podiatrist)
  • Try to be more physically active, physical activity and exercise can help many chronic health problems

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