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MMWR CDC Surveill Summ. 1999 Dec 17;48(8):27-50.

Surveillance for injuries and violence among older adults.

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Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, USA.



Injuries and violence are major causes of disability and death among adults aged > or =65 years in the United States. Injuries impair older adults' quality of life and result in billions of dollars in health-care expenditures each year.


This report reviews 1987-1996 data regarding fall-related deaths, 1988-1996 data on hospitalizations for hip fracture, 1990-1997 data regarding motor vehicle-related injuries, 1990-1996 data on suicides, and 1987-1996 data on homicides.


Data on fall-related deaths, suicides, and homicides are from the National Center for Health Statistics annual mortality data tapes for 1987-1996. Homicide data are supplemented with information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Supplemental Homicide Reports for 1987-1996. Data on hospitalizations for hip fracture are from the 1988-1996 National Hospital Discharge Surveys. Information regarding motor vehicle-related injuries for 1990-1997 is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and General Estimates System.


Rates of fall-related deaths for older adults increased sharply with advancing age and were consistently higher among men in all age categories. Men were 22% more likely than women to sustain fatal falls. A trend of increasing rates of fall-related deaths was observed from 1987 through 1996 in the United States, although rates were consistently lower for women throughout this period. Rates of hospitalizations for hip fracture differed by age and were higher for white women than for other groups. Rates increased with advancing age for both sexes but were consistently higher for women in all age categories. U.S. hospitalization rates for hip fracture increased for women from 1988 through 1996 while the rates for men remained stable. Rates of motor vehicle-related injuries increased slightly from 1990 through 1997, and marked variations in state-specific death rates were observed; in most states, older men had death rates approximately twice those for older women. Although suicide rates remain higher among older adults than among any other age group, rates of suicide among adults aged > or =65 years decreased 16% during the study period. Suicide rates among older adults varied by sex and age group. Homicide rates declined 36% among older adults. Homicide rates were highest for black men, followed by black women and white men; the homicide risk for blacks relative to whites decreased from 4.8 to 3.9 per 100,000 persons, indicating that the gap between rates for blacks and whites is closing. Half of the older homicide victims were killed by someone they knew.


The increase in rates of fall-related deaths and hip fracture hospitalizations from 1988 through 1996 might reflect a change in the proportion of adults aged > or =85 years compared with those aged 65-84 years - a change that results, in part, from reduced mortality from cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Fall-related death rates might be higher among older men because they often have a higher prevalence of comorbid conditions than women of similar age. Racial differences in hospitalization rates might have some underlying biologic basis; the prevalence of osteoporosis, a condition that contributes to reduced bone mass and increased bone fragility, is greatest among older white women. Compared with whites aged > or =65 years, blacks of comparable ages have greater bone mass and are less likely to sustain fall-related hip fractures. Additional studies are needed to determine why rates of motor vehicle-related injury have increased slightly among older adults and why these rates vary by state. Declining rates of suicide among older adults might be related to changes in the effect or type of risk factors traditionally observed in this age group. Research is needed to identify reasons for variations in suicide rates among older persons. Homicides among olde

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