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Outdoor falls among middle-aged and older adults: a neglected public health problem

OBJECTIVES: Although risk factors for indoor falls among older individuals have been well studied, little is known about the etiology of outdoor falls. We examined risk factors for outdoor falls among middle-aged and older adults. METHODS: We analyzed data on the most recent fall during the past year among participants aged 45 years and older in the control group (N=2193) of a case-control study of fractures. The study was conducted at 5 Northern California Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers between 1996 and 2001. RESULTS: Falls occurred outdoors more often than indoors among most age groups. Study participants who reported more leisure-time physical activity had a higher risk for outdoor falls, and participants who were in poorer health had a greater risk for indoor falls. Most outdoor falls (73%) were precipitated by environmental factors, such as uneven surfaces and tripping or slipping on objects, and usually occurred on sidewalks, curbs, and streets. Walking (47.3%) was the most common fall-related activity. CONCLUSIONS: Outdoor falls among adults aged 45 years and older were frequently attributable to modifiable environmental factors. With the widespread promotion of active lifestyles among older people, improvements in their outdoor environment are urgently needed.

Authors: Li W; Keegan TH; Sternfeld B; Sidney S; Quesenberry CP Jr; Kelsey JL

Am J Public Health. 2006 Jul;96(7):1192-200. Epub 2006 May 30.

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