Falls in Older Adults Cost US Over $50 Billion Dollars Annually

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Curtis Florence, PhD Division of Analysis, Research and Practice Integration  CDC’s Injury Center

Dr. Florence

Curtis Florence, PhD
Division of Analysis, Research and Practice Integration
CDC’s Injury Center

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The estimates in this study provide a more robust indicator of the economic impact falls have on the U.S. economy.  Previous studies focused on Medicare spending. This study includes Medicare, Medicaid and out-of-pocket spending.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: Our study found that older adult (65 years and over) falls impose a large economic burden on the U.S. healthcare system. In 2015, with a total medical cost $50 billion for non-fatal and fatal falls.  About three-quarters of the total cost was paid by government-funded programs.  Medicare paid nearly $29 billion for non-fatal falls, Medicaid $8.7 billion, and $12 billion was paid for by Private/Out-of-pocket expenses.  For fatal falls, $754 million was spent in 2015.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Falls are costly. The good news is that falls are preventable, and reducing the number of falls reduces the economic burden.  Clinical interventions that identify and manage an individual’s many fall risk factors have been shown to reduce falls by 24%.  CDC developed the STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injury) initiative to help healthcare providers incorporate fall prevention into routine clinical care for older adults. The STEADI initiative helps clinicians:

  1. Screen older adults for falls risk,
  2. Assess for modifiable risk factors, and
  3. Intervene using evidence-based interventions.

STEADI is based on clinical guidelines and includes materials and resources to help clinicians start using the initiative to prevent older adult falls. These resources include:

  • screening tools,
  • educational materials and resources,
  • online trainings, and
  • Electronic health record (EHR) modules with several vendors to integrate STEADI into the EHR system.

To learn more, visit www.cdc.gov/steadi 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: More research is needed on the impact of falls on quality of life for older adults.  Also, more research is needed on the value of time that caregivers, both informal and formal, spend on caring for older adults who fall, and the economic costs of that time.  

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: Every second of every day an older American falls. Every 12 seconds an older adult visits an emergency department, and every 39 seconds an older adult is hospitalized because of a fall related injury. Every 20 minutes an older adult dies because of a fall—that is 74 older Americans every day.

Older Americans, or their caregivers can:

  • Reduce the risk of falling and stay independent longer when they:

o   Speak up. Talk to their doctor about fall risks and prevention. Tell their doctor right away if they have fallen, if they’re afraid they might fall, or if they feel unsteady.

o   Keep moving. Activities that strengthen legs and help balance (like Tai Chi) can help prevent falls.

o   Check their eyes. Have a vision screening once a year and update glasses as needed.

o   Check home safety. Most falls happen at home.

–          Get rid of hazards. Keep floors clutter free and tape down or secure rugs.

–          Add grab bars and railings—especially in the bathroom.

–          Make sure there is plenty of light. 


Medical Costs of Fatal and Nonfatal Falls in Older Adults

Curtis S. Florence PhD , Gwen Bergen PhD,  Adam Atherly PhD,  Elizabeth Burns MPH

First published: 7 March 2018
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 

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Last Updated on April 4, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD