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Fatal Elderly Falls On the Rise, According to CDC Study

The findings of new research suggest that older Americans face an increasing risk of falling and dying, with the fatality rates associated with unintentional accidents rising for those over the age of 65.

In a report released this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) evaluated trends involving deaths from unintentional injury among adults aged 65 and over.

Between 2000 and 2013, the unintentional injury rate among older individuals nearly doubled in this country, increasing from 29.6 per 100,000 people to 56.7 per 100,000. In addition, researchers indicate that in 2012 and 2013, more than half of all deaths associated with accidental injuries were caused by falls.

The risk increases as individuals get older, with the rates of fatal elderly falls among adults over the age of 85 being 16 times higher than among individuals between the ages of 65 and 74, and four times higher than among those 75 to 84.

While deaths due to unintentional injuries went up during that time frame; rates for some causes of death, such as motor vehicle crashes, suffocation and fire, declined during the period examined. About eight percent of all deaths among people over the age of 65 were attributed to suffocation, four percent to unintentional poisoning and two percent to fire.

The death rate due to suffocation was more than eight times higher among adults over the age of 85 compared to adults between the ages of 65 and 74. The death rate due to fire for adults over 65 was more than twice as high for non-Hispanic black adults compared to non-Hispanic white and Hispanic adults.

When it came to car accidents, the death rate increased with the age of the population, as did the death rate for suffocation and fire. For adults over 65, the death rate for car accidents was nearly two times higher in suburban and rural areas compared to metropolitan areas.

Suicide accounted for 13 percent of deaths and homicide accounted for two percent.

Older individuals who suffer a fall are also at risk of experience a traumatic brain injury. According to research published in 2013, elderly nursing home residents who suffer falls face a high risk of also suffering a serious and life-threatening traumatic head injury. The study indicated more than one-third of all falls that occur in a nursing home resulted in a head injury.

Unintentional injuries accounted for 85 percent of all injury deaths among adults over 65. Many older Americans are at greater risk of suffering an unintentional injury, such as a fall, because of medication they are taking. A 2014 study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine revealed older patients who take blood pressure medications face a higher risk of falling than those who do not. Those patients are 40 percent more likely to suffer a fall resulting in serious injuries.

In 2013, unintentional injures were the eighth leading cause of death among U.S. adults over 65, resulting in nearly 46,000 deaths. The agency emphasized injury deaths place a large burden on society, many of these injuries and death are preventable.


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