Statement of Purpose This analysis uses data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a national in-person survey of non-institutionalized adults, to examine risk factors among adults aged 65 and older who reported a fall.
Methods/Approach Data from the NHIS was used to identify older adults who experienced a fall-related injury in the 90 days prior to survey participation. Analysis was conducted using data from all older adults who reported a fall and on the subset of adults who had a fall that required emergency department (ED) treatment or hospitalization. The study used aggregate data from 2015–2017. Established methodologies to account for the complex sampling and survey design were employed to generate national estimates. Bivariate (X2 tests) and multivariate (logistic regression) analyses were conducted to examine differences by demographic characteristics and comorbid medical conditions.
Results During the 3-year period, there were 939 older adult survey participants who reported a fall in the past 90 days (national estimate = 1,020,779). Of these, 534 were hospitalized or treated at an emergency department (ED) (national estimate = 589,251). Falls were significantly associated (p<0.05) with increasing age, being female, being white-non-Hispanic, and being widowed. After controlling for demographic factors, comorbid conditions that limited daily activities/functioning and were significantly associated with falls included: depression/anxiety, dementia, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, lung problems (asthma and other breathing conditions), and being obese. Similar findings were observed for severe falls that required hospitalization or ED treatment.
Conclusions The NHIS provides insight into the risk of falls among older adult populations. Disparities exist across demographic groups, and key co-morbidities may affect fall risk among older adults.
Significance/Contributions Studies examining falls among older adult populations are often limited to examining health outcomes or disease burden. This analysis adds contextual information on possible risk factors for falls using nationally representative survey data.
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