Episodes of falling among elderly people: a systematic review and meta-analysis of social and demographic pre-disposing characteristics






CONTEXT: The multifactorial nature of falls among elderly people is well-known. Identifying the social-demographic characteristics of elderly people who fall would enable us to define the typical profile of the elderly who are at risk of falling. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to isolate studies in which the social-demographic risk factors for falls among the elderly have been evaluated and to carry out a meta-analysis by combining the results of all of these selected studies. METHOD: We did a systematic literature review using the key words "accidental fall / numerical data" and "risk factors." Inclusion criteria entailed the selection of articles with the following characteristics: population of subjects aged 60 years or over, falls that took place in everyday life, and social-demographic risk factors for falls. RESULTS: 3,747 indexed articles published between 1981 and 2007 were identified, and 177 studies with available data were included, of which 129 had data on social-demographic risk factors for falls. Difficulties in activities of daily living (ADL) or in instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) double the risk of falling: The OR and 95% Cl were 2.26 (2.09, 2.45) for disturbance ADL and 2.10 (1.68, 2.64) for IADL. The OR and 95% Cl for Caucasians were 1.68 (0.98 - 2.88) and 0.64 (0.51 - 0.80) for Hispanics. In the subgroup of patients older than eighty, being married protected people from falling with an OR and 95% Cl =0.68 (0.53 - 0.87). CONCLUSION: Defining factors that create a risk of falling and protect elderly people from falls using social-demographic characteristics lets us focus on an "at risk" population for which a specific program could be developed.

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