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PLoS One. 2018 Aug 7;13(8):e0201989. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0201989. eCollection 2018.

Should prevention of falls start earlier? Co-ordinated analyses of harmonised data on falls in middle-aged adults across four population-based cohort studies.

Author information

Global Brain Health Institute, University of California San Francisco, California, United States of America | Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Amsterdam Public Health Research institute, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL, London, United Kingdom.
Mercer's Institute for Successful Ageing, St James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.
The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.


The prevalence of risk factors for falls increases during middle-age, but the prevalence of falls in this age-range is often overlooked and understudied. The aim was to calculate the prevalence of falls in middle-aged adults (aged 40-64 years) from four countries. Data were from four population-based cohort studies from Australia (Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, n = 10556, 100% women, 51-58 years in 2004), Ireland (The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, n = 4968, 57.5% women, 40-64 years in 2010), the Netherlands (Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, n = 862, 51.6% women, 55-64 years in 2012-13) and Great Britain (MRC National Survey of Health and Development, n = 2821, 50.9% women, 53 years in 1999). In each study, falls assessment was based on recall of any falls in the past year. The prevalence of falls was calculated for the total group, for each country, for men and women separately, and for 5-year age-bands. The prevalence was higher in Australia (27.8%, women only) and the Netherlands (25.1%) than in Ireland (17.6%) and Great Britain (17.8%, p<0.001). Women (27.0%) had higher prevalences than men (15.2%, p<0.001). The prevalence increased from 8.7% in 40-44 year olds to 29.9% in 60-64 year olds in women, and from 14.7% in 45-49 year olds to 15.7% in 60-64 year olds in men. Even within 5-year age-bands, there was substantial variation in prevalence between the four cohorts. Weighting for age, sex and education changed the prevalence estimates by less than 2 percentage points. The sharp increase in prevalence of falls in middle-age, particularly among women supports the notion that falls are not just a problem of old age, and that middle-age may be a critical life stage for preventive interventions.

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