Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among people age 65 and older, with a third of this population suffering a fall each year.
Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health researcher Dr. Samuel Towne Jr., and others recently analyzed the geographic dispersion of falls and fall-related hospitalization rates in Texas. Using data from the 2011 Texas Hospital Inpatient Discharge Public Use Data File, the researchers examined the characteristics of patients as well as the location of each incident.
[Photo: Dr. Samuel Towne, Jr.]
Published recently online in the Journal of Safety Research, researchers found that the number of fall-related hospitalizations among adults age 50 and older increased by nearly 20 percent from 2007 to 2011. A previous study by members of the research team identified an increase in the cost of fall-related hospitalization of $1.2 billion along the same timeline and age group. Additionally, they discovered that the number of fall-related hospitalizations was higher for females than for males, with females age 85 and older representing 33 percent of the total fall-related hospitalizations in 2011.
The researchers classified 20.5 percent of non-metropolitan counties and 34.2 percent of metropolitan counties in Texas as “hot spots” for falls among those aged 65 and older. There were clusters of “hot spot” counties throughout the state (north, south and central regions), many of which lacked community-based fall prevention programs.
“There has been limited information about the geographic dispersion of falls and fall-related hospitalizations, especially in relation to fall-prevention programming,” Towne said. “Studies like this enable policymakers and program planners to examine current fall-prevention programs and encourage development of new programs where they are most needed.”
Increasing community-based programs targeting populations with the highest fall risk will allow for a better quality of life for elderly adults.
“With the rapid growth of the older population in Texas, a coordinated approach including clinical, community and technological interventions will be needed to halt the anticipated rise in falls and their enormous public health burden,” said co-author and Regents and Distinguished Professor Dr. Marcia Ory, of the Texas A&M School of Public Health.