CHICAGO — New research shows fatal falls have nearly tripled in older Americans in recent years, rising to more than 25,000 deaths yearly.
The findings highlight the importance of fall prevention. A separate study bolsters evidence that programs focusing on improving muscle strength and balance can help achieve that goal.
Both studies were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Circumstances weren’t included in the data, but traumatic brain injuries and hip fractures leading to steep health declines are among causes of death in older adults who fall.
“Deaths from falls may have increased because older people are living longer, living longer independently, and are living longer with chronic conditions,” said Elizabeth Burns, a study co-author and health scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s injury center.
She noted that some medications also make older adults prone to falls. That includes prescription drugs affecting balance. The new analysis included 16 years of U.S. vital statistics data on adults aged 75. Fatal falls increased from 8,600 in 2000 to 25,190 in 2016. Separate CDC data show they climbed even higher in 2017, to almost 26,440 fatal falls in Americans aged 75 and older.
The rate in the study more than doubled, from 51 fatal falls per 100,000 people to 122 falls per 100,000. The results echo studies of fatal fall trends in the Netherlands and other European countries.