Health and Economic Burden of Falls Expected To Surge Interview with:

Gwen Bergen, PhD Division of Unintentional Injury National Center for Injury Prevention and Control CDC

Dr. Gwen Bergen

Gwen Bergen, PhD
Division of Unintentional Injury
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
CDC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Older adult falls are the leading cause of injury death and disability for adults aged 65 years and older (older adults). In this study, we analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. Our study found that, in 2014, older Americans reported 29 million falls. Almost a quarter of these or 7 million falls required medical treatment or restricted activity for at least one day. Women reported a higher percentage of falls (30%) compared with men (27%). Whites and American Indian/Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) were more likely to fall compared with Blacks and Asian/Pacific Islanders; and AI/AN were more likely to report a fall injury compared with all other racial/ethnic groups. The percentage of older adults who reported a fall varied by state, ranging from 21% in Hawaii to 34% in Arkansas. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The older adult population is expected to increase by over 50% in the next fifteen years. Based on this growth and what our study found, we can expect 49 million falls and 12 million fall injuries in 2030. Currently, annual medical costs for older adult falls total over $31 billion. The health and economic burden will surge unless preventive measures are adopted. Older adult falls are largely preventable, and health care providers can play an important part by discussing falls with older adult patients and providing appropriate interventions. CDC has developed the STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries) Initiative to provide resources to help health care providers incorporate fall prevention into primary care. More information along with screening tools, educational materials, and online trainings can be found at What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We recommend the following research questions as a result of this study:

1. How effective are approaches like STEADI, that include activities such as asking about falls, assessing gait and balance, reviewing medications, and prescribing interventions in reducing older adult falls and fall injuries? What is the rate of return on these approaches?
2. What are the underlying behavioral or health factors causing the differences in falls and fall injuries by racial/ethnic group?
3. What factors are related to the state variations in falls and fall injuries? Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Falls impose a heavy burden on older adults, society, and our health system. These falls are preventable. Healthcare providers can work with older adults to prevent these falls and keep our older adults healthy and independent. Thank you for your contribution to the community.

Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998. DOI:

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on September 23, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD