An Explanation for the Recent Increase in the Fall Death Rate Among Older Americans: A Subgroup Analysis


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Abstract

Objective.We sought to explain the recent increase in the death rate from falls among Americans aged 65 years and older.Methods.Using the CDC WONDER online database, a longitudinal analysis of subgroups of fall mortality based on the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10) was conducted in older adults and in younger people. We used linear regression to examine the statistical significance of trends in mortality rates during 1999–2007.Results.The overall mortality rate from falls increased by 55% among older Americans (>65 years of age) during 1999–2007, from 29 per 100,000 population to 45 per 100,000 population. For those aged ≥65 years, the largest increase by far (698%) occurred in the subgroup “other falls on the same level,” followed by a moderate increase in falls involving wheelchairs or furniture (48%). The steepest increases at all ages occurred from 1999 to 2000, after ICD-10 took effect. State-level analysis confirmed the findings for the entire United States. From 1999 to 2007, total mortality from falls decreased by 5% in people younger than 45 years of age and increased by 44% for those aged 45–64 years; mortality from “other falls on the same level” increased by 202% and 431%, respectively, in these age groups.Conclusions.Because the reported minor increases in emergency department and hospitalization rates for falls were insignificant, the almost sevenfold increase in death rates from “other falls on the same level” strongly suggests an effect of improved reporting quality.

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