Interventions to Prevent Falls in Older Adults: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

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Falls are the most common cause of injury-related morbidity and mortality among older adults.


To systematically review literature on the effectiveness and harms of fall prevention interventions in community-dwelling older adults to inform the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Data Sources

MEDLINE, PubMed, Cumulative Index for Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials for relevant English-language literature published through August 2016, with ongoing surveillance through February 7, 2018.

Study Selection

Randomized clinical trials of interventions to prevent falls in community-dwelling adults 65 years and older.

Data Extraction and Synthesis

Independent critical appraisal and data abstraction by 2 reviewers. Random-effects meta-analyses using the method of DerSimonian and Laird.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Number of falls (number of unexpected events in which a person comes to rest on the ground, floor, or lower level), people experiencing 1 or more falls, injurious falls, people experiencing injurious falls, fractures, people experiencing fractures, mortality, hospitalizations, institutionalizations, changes in disability, and treatment harms.


Sixty-two randomized clinical trials (N = 35 058) examining 7 fall prevention intervention types were identified. This article focused on the 3 most commonly studied intervention types: multifactorial (customized interventions based on initial comprehensive individualized falls risk assessment) (26 trials [n = 15 506]), exercise (21 trials [n = 7297]), and vitamin D supplementation (7 trials [n = 7531]). Multifactorial intervention trials were associated with a reduction in falls (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.79 [95% CI, 0.68-0.91]) but were not associated with a reduction in other fall-related morbidity and mortality outcomes. Exercise trials were associated with statistically significant reductions in people experiencing a fall (relative risk, 0.89 [95% 13 CI, 0.81-0.97]) and injurious falls (IRR, 0.81 [95% CI, 0.73-0.90]) and with a statistically nonsignificant reduction in falls (IRR, 0.87 [95% CI, 0.75-1.00]) but showed no association with mortality. Few exercise trials reported fall-related fractures. Seven heterogeneous trials of vitamin D formulations (with or without calcium) showed mixed results. One trial of annual high-dose cholecalciferol (500 000 IU), which has not been replicated, showed an increase in falls, people experiencing a fall, and injuries, while 1 trial of calcitriol showed a reduction in falls and people experiencing a fall; the remaining 5 trials showed no significant difference in falls, people experiencing a fall, or injuries. Harms of multifactorial and exercise trials were rarely reported but generally included minor musculoskeletal injuries.

Conclusions and Relevance

Multifactorial and exercise interventions were associated with fall-related benefit, but evidence was most consistent across multiple fall-related outcomes for exercise. Vitamin D supplementation interventions had mixed results, with a high dose being associated with higher rates of fall-related outcomes.

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