Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Big Increase in Death by Falling

Older Americans are increasingly likely to die from a fall, the CDC reports. The annual number of people aged 65 or older who die because of falling climbed from 18,000 in 2007 to 30,000 in 2016. Even more telling, the death rate from falls grew steeply during those years—from 47 deaths per 100,000 people aged 65 or older in 2007 to 62 deaths per 100,000 in 2016, a 31 percent increase. The rise in the death rate from falls among older Americans is not a new phenomenon, according to the CDC. Between 2000 and 2006, the rate climbed 42 percent.

Why is falling a growing problem for older Americans? The increase in the 85-plus population may be one factor, says the CDC, since the death rate from falls is highest in the oldest age group. But even among the oldest old, the death rate from falls has surged—up 41 percent between 2007 and 2016. How to explain this? "Nationally, the rate of deaths from falls might be increasing because of longer survival after the onset of common diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke," the CDC speculates.

One possible factor behind the increase, not mentioned in the CDC report, is obesity. Older Americans are increasingly likely to be obese, and the obese may find it more difficult to maintain their balance as they age. Among men aged 75 or older, the prevalence of obesity grew from 18 to 27 percent between 1999–2002 and 2011–14, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Among their female counterparts, obesity increased from 24 to 31 percent.

If the death rate from falls cannot be reduced, the CDC warns, many more older people will die from falls in the years ahead. "If the current rate remains stable," it reports, "an estimated 43,000 U.S. residents aged ≥ 65 years will die because of a fall in 2030, and if the rate continues to increase, 59,000 fall-related deaths could result."

Source: CDC, Deaths from Fall among Persons Aged ≥ 65 Years—United States, 2007–2016

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