Background Unintentional injuries (UIs) caused by falls are an important public health issue in ageing populations. This paper describes the incidence and consequences of falls in the adult population in Germany; the focus is on age and gender differences.
Methods The representative phone survey “German Health Update 2010” (n = 22,050) provides information on up to three medically treated UIs within twelve months. Analyses focus on the characteristics of falls compared to other types of UIs. Frequencies and 95% confidence intervals (CI: 95) were calculated and logistic regression was applied to control for confounders.
Results Like UIs in general, falls are more frequent in younger than in older age, particularly in men. The prevalence decreases from 5.3% (CI95: 4.2–6.7) in men aged 18–29 to 1.8% (CI95: 1.0–3.3) in men aged 70 and over. However, at the same time, the proportion of falls among all UIs rises with age: from 22.7% (CI95: 18.4–27.7) to 52.6% (CI95: 32.7–71.7) in men and from 20.1% (CI95:15.2–26.0) to 63.9% (CI95: 47.7–77.5) in women. The proportion of falls that occur at home also increases significantly with age: from 14% to over 50%. Still, among the elderly, about one third of falls occurs in public places (among pedestrians). The consequences of UIs caused by falls are often serious: 34.4% (CI95:29.8–39.4) of all falls cause bone fractures (all UIs: 20.4%; CI95: 18.3–22.6). One-quarter (26.8%; CI95: 22.4–31.7) result in hospitalisation (all UIs: 18.3%; CI95: 16.2–20.5). Moreover, the need for physical therapy and rehabilitation is higher after falling compared to all other UIs.
Conclusions The data demonstrate the severity of UIs caused by falls and reveal important age and gender specific patterns. Older people are no more at risk than younger people, but the consequences for them are more serious than for the younger. Consequently, fall-related UIs are of importance in all ages and require age and gender specific approaches to prevention.
- unintentional injuries
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