Federal researchers indicate that the number of deaths related to brain injuries suffered during falls appears to be increasing nationwide.
According to a study published this week in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, traumatic brain injury deaths following falls has increased 17% between 2008 and 2018, which may actually be the result of increased survival from diseases and more of the population living to an advanced age.
Researchers used data from the National Vital Statistics System; a multiple-cause-of- death database on death certificates filed in 50 states. They analyzed the data to determine the incidence of fall-related TBI deaths among U.S. residents.
According to the findings, the national rate of fall-related TBI deaths increased by 17% from 2008 to 2018, from 3.86 per 100,000 persons to 4.52 per 100,000. Fatal brain injury rates increased significantly in 29 states, and among nearly all age and demographic groups.
TBI death rates were highest among those 75 years and older, with 54 deaths per 100,000 people. This is eight times higher than the death rate of people 55 to 74 years old.
Rates were also twice as high among men compared to women. People living in rural counties saw the greatest increase from 2008 to 2017, with a nearly 3% increase in deaths.
Unintentional falls represented the second leading cause of TBI-related death.
The states that experienced the greatest annual increases were Maine, with a 6.5% increase; South Dakota, with a 6.1% increase; and Oklahoma, with a 5.2% increase.
Traumatic Brain Injury Risks
Traumatic brain injuries can be caused by a blow or jolt to the head, much like a concussion. They can lead to serious side effects and disrupt normal brain function. Symptoms can include headaches, irritability, fatigue, and blood clots.
Researchers speculate the increased rates of falls and TBI-related deaths may be partially explained by an increased lifespan of the general population, and increased survival following the onset of common diseases, leading to a larger, older population.
Many types of falls are largely preventable. Nevertheless, one in 10 adults in the U.S. report falling each year. Visits to the ER for traumatic brain injury related falls have increased by more than 30% in recent years.
“Although falls are preventable, the public should be aware that fall-related TBI deaths are increasing in many states as well as nationally,” CDC researchers concluded. “Nationally, this increase might be explained by longer survival following the onset of common diseases such as stroke, cancer, and heart disease or be attributable to the increasing population of older adults in the United States.”