- Every year, one in three people aged 65 or older experiences a fall, which is the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.
- Falls among older adults cost the US $30 billion a year in direct medical expenses.
- A new study finds that community-based fall prevention programs are feasible and effective and save money.
Costs of Falls Among Older Adults
In 2012, the direct medical costs of older adult falls, adjusted for inflation, were $30 billion.1 With the population aging, both the number of falls and the costs to treat fall injuries are likely to increase.
How big is the problem?
- One in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year.2 Of those who fall, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently, and increase their risk of early death.3
- Older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes.4
- In 2012, emergency departments treated 2.4 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults; more than 722,000 of these patients had to be hospitalized.5
How are costs calculated?
The costs of fall-related injuries are often shown in terms of direct costs.
- Direct costs are what patients and insurance companies pay for treating fall-related injuries. These costs include fees for hospital and nursing home care, doctors and other professional services, rehabilitation, community-based services, use of medical equipment, prescription drugs, changes made to the home, and insurance processing.
- Direct costs do not account for the long-term effects of these injuries such as disability, dependence on others, lost time from work and household duties, and reduced quality of life.
How costly are fall-related injuries among older adults?
- In 2012, the total direct medical costs of fall injuries for people 65 and older, adjusted for inflation, was $30 billion.1
- By 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $67.7 billion (in 2012 dollars).6
- Among community-dwelling older adults, fall-related injury is one of the 20 most expensive medical conditions.7
- In 2002, about 22% of community-dwelling seniors reported having fallen in the previous year. Medicare costs per fall averaged between $13,797 and $20,450 (in 2012 dollars).8
- Among community-dwelling seniors treated for fall injuries, 65% of direct medical costs were for inpatient hospitalizations; 10% each for medical office visits and home health care, 8% for hospital outpatient visits, 7% for emergency room visits, and 1% each for prescription drugs and dental visits. About 78% of these costs were reimbursed by Medicare.9
- In a 1998 study of people age 72 and older, the average health care cost of a fall injury totaled $19,440, which included hospital, nursing home, emergency room, and home health care, but not doctors’ services.10
How do these costs break down?
Age and sex
- The costs of fall injuries increase rapidly with age.1
- Costs of both fatal and nonfatal falls are higher for women than for men.1
- In 2000, medical costs for women, who comprised 58% of older adults, were two to three times higher than the costs for men.1
Type of injury and treatment setting
- In 2000, 78% of fall deaths, and 79% of total costs, were due to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and injuries to the lower extremities.1
- Injuries to internal organs were responsible for 28% of fall deaths and accounted for 29% of costs.6
- Fractures were both the most common and most costly nonfatal injuries. Just over one-third of nonfatal injuries were fractures, but these accounted for 61% of total nonfatal costs—or $18.8 billion (in 2012 dollars).1
- Hospitalizations accounted for nearly two-thirds of the costs of nonfatal fall injuries and emergency department treatment accounted for 20%.1
- On average, the hospitalization cost for a fall injury is $34,294 (in 2012 dollars).11
- Hip fractures are the most serious and costly fall-related fracture. Hospitalization costs account for 44% of the direct medical costs for hip fractures.12
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