Characteristics of falls in elderly persons residing in the community: a population-based study

Abstract Object: to examine the characteristics to the last fall of Brazilian elderly persons who experienced falls in 2008 and 2009, and to identify if there is a relationship with sociodemographic characteristics, physical health, comorbidities, clinical conditions and the circumstances of the falls. Methods: a cross-sectional, population based study was carried out with participants aged 65 and older from Barueri in the state of São Paulo and Cuiabá in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Households were enrolled within each census region according to population density and the number of elderly persons living in each region. A multidimensional questionnaire composed of sociodemographic factors and data regarding falls was used. Associations were analyzed using contingency tables, and Fisher's Exact or Pearson's Chi-square test was used. Results: 774 elderly people were included in the study, 299 of whom reported falling in the previous year. Of these, 176 (58.9%) had fallen once and 123 (41.1%) reported having fallen twice or more. Among fallers the mean age was 72.53 (±6.12) years and 214 (71.6%) were female. About 107 (35.8%) of the elderly reported having fallen forwards, 79 (26.4%) fell to the side and 42(14%) fell backwards. Regarding the circumstances of the falls, 107 (35.8%) reported having lost their balance, 79 (26.4%) said they had stumbled and 42 (14%) said they had slipped. There was an association between the mechanism and circumstances of the falls and having fallen once or twice or more. There was an association between the circumstances of falls and the number of medications taken. Conclusion: The characteristics of falls were different among elderly persons who had fallen once or twice or more, which may guide health professionals, the elderly and their families in relation to specific fall prevention strategies.