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Facts on falls - Queensland Stay On Your Feet

This section defines a fall, provides statistics about falls, identifies factors that place someone at risk of falling, and what can be done to prevent falls and minimise harm caused by falls in older people. On this page, you will find some fast facts about falls and falls prevention in Queensland.

book reference image Read more detailed statistics on falls

What is a fall?

The World Health Organisation defines a fall as "inadvertently coming to rest on the ground, floor or lower level, excluding intentional change in position to rest in furniture, wall or other objects" 31. Falls in older people cover a wide range of events, including:

  • trips on raised obstacles (eg. loose rugs, cords, mats) or uneven surfaces (eg. footpaths, roads)
  • slipping on wet or highly polished surfaces
  • tumbles and stumbles down steps or stairs
  • falling off a ladder or stepladder
  • falling over in a shopping centre or while using public transport.

What a fall is not

Falls in older people are not accidents. Similarly, falls are not an inevitable or unavoidable part of life. The word 'accident' has several meanings including ‘anything that happens by chance without an apparent cause’ 32 or ‘an event without apparent cause, unexpected event, chance, mishap’ 33. The causes of a fall can usually be identified and the sequence of events leading up to the fall can be predicted and therefore can be prevented.

Fast facts: Falls for Queenslanders aged 65 years and over (2007-08)

  • Most falls occurred at home during the cooler months (May to July).
  • Most falls were caused by slips and trips on a level surface.
  • Falls injuries were mainly to the head, hip and forearm.
  • The most common falls injury was fractures, mainly to the hip.
  • Each day, 62 older people fell and required an ambulance, with most being over 85 years.
  • Each day, 13 older people required emergency department services due to a fall.
  • Each day, 35 people were admitted to hospital due to fall-related injuries (with 10 of these being admitted due to hip fractures).
  • The average cost of a hip fracture to Queensland’s health system is $15,046.
  • Hospital staff reported 32 falls each day within hospital facilities (mostly unwitnessed, occurring in the morning between 9am and 12 noon, and in the afternoon/evening between 3pm and 7pm).
  • During 2007, 493 Queensland residents died due to an unintentional fall, with nearly 95% being aged 65 years and over.
  • Falls are caused by many factors including impaired balance, gait, reduced muscle strength, slowed reaction time, poor vision and the use of multiple medications, depression, a fear about falling, inappropriate footwear, incontinence and environmental hazards within and outside the home.
  • Most falls are preventable and predictable 67.
  • Falls can be prevented by staying healthy and active, maintaining strength and balance, identifying falls risk factors and addressing them, and improving home safety to avoid hazards.

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Last updated: 13 May 2022