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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1991 Jan;39(1):46-52.

Falls and injuries in frail and vigorous community elderly persons.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.


Identification of different types of falls and fallers among elderly persons might aid in the targeting of preventive efforts. In a representative sample of 336 community elderly, subjects were assigned to Frail, Vigorous, or Transition groups based on observed patterns of clustering among demographic, physical, and psychological variables. The frequency and circumstances of falls in these three groups were then ascertained. As expected, the observed incidence of falling in one year of follow-up was highest in the Frail group (52%) and lowest in the Vigorous group (17%). However, 22% (5/23) of falls by vigorous subjects, but only 6% (5/89) of falls by frail subjects, resulted in a serious injury. Compared with frail subjects, vigorous fallers were somewhat more likely to fall during displacing activity (53% vs 31%), with an environmental hazard present (53% vs 29%), and on stairs (27% vs 6%). These findings suggest that fall-related injuries can be a serious health problem for vigorous as well as frail elderly persons. Injury prevention, therefore, should be directed at all elderly persons but tailored to expected differences in fall circumstances.

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