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What causes falls?

2-minute read

The natural ageing process often places older adults at an increased risk of having a fall. Falls are a common and often overlooked cause of injury in the elderly.

There are three main reasons why older people are more likely to have a fall. These are:

  • chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, dementia and low blood pressure (hypotension), which can cause dizziness
  • impairments, such as poor vision or muscle weakness
  • illnesses that can affect balance, such as labyrinthitis (inflammation of the delicate balance regulating parts of the ear)

Chronic health conditions, such as those listed above, can sometimes cause a loss of balance, a brief loss of consciousness or fainting, or a sudden feeling of dizziness, all of which could all contribute to a fall.

Normal changes to our bodies as we age also make falls more likely. Visual impairment or muscle weakness may also make it more difficult for an older person to prevent a fall. Older people may also have weaker muscles and stiffer joints, or may lose some of the feeling in their feet and legs. They're also slower to react and may have difficulty concentrating on more than one thing as they age.

Among older adults, the most common reasons for accidentally falling or slipping include:

  • wet or recently polished floors, such as in a bathroom
  • dim light
  • rugs or carpets that are not properly secured
  • reaching for storage areas, such as cupboards
  • stairs

Another common cause of falls, particularly among older men, is falling from a ladder while carrying out home maintenance work.

For people who have osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones), falling can be particularly dangerous as there is more risk of a broken bone.

Last reviewed: December 2017

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