Prevalence and risk factors for falls in older men and women: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

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Abstract

Background

falls are a major cause of disability and death in older people. Women are more likely to fall than men, but little is known about whether risk factors for falls differ between the sexes. We used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to investigate the prevalence of falls by sex and to examine cross-sectionally sex-specific associations between a range of potential risk factors and likelihood of falling.

Methods

participants were 4,301 men and women aged 60 and over who had taken part in the 2012–13 survey of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. They provided information about sociodemographic, lifestyle and behavioural and medical factors, had their physical and cognitive function assessed and responded to a question about whether they had fallen down in the last two years.

Results

in multivariable logistic regression models, severe pain and diagnosis of at least one chronic disease were independently associated with falls in both sexes. Sex-specific risk factors were incontinence (odds ratio (OR), 1.48; 95% CI, 1.19, 1.85) and frailty (OR 1.69, 95% CI 1.06, 2.69) in women, and older age (OR 1.02, 95% CI 1.04, 1.07), high levels of depressive symptoms (OR 1.33, 95% CI 1.05, 1.68), and being unable to perform a standing balance test (OR 3.32, 95% CI 2.09, 5.29) in men.

Conclusion

although we found some homogeneity between the sexes in the risk factors that were associated with falls, the existence of several sex-specific risk factors suggests that gender should be taken into account in designing fall-prevention strategies.

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