Falls in the elderly: assessment of prevalence and risk factors

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Background: Falls in elderly people can lead to serious health problems. There is limited knowledge about the prevalence of falls, risk factors and causes of falls in the United Arab Emirates.

Objective: To assess the prevalence of falls among older adults aged 60 years and above and to determine the risk factors associated with falls.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted using an anonymous, 20-item questionnaire which was developed in English and Arabic to be delivered as a semi-structured interview. The pre-piloted questionnaire was distributed to 510 families with at least one elderly person. The study was conducted in Sharjah and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from September to November 2017.

Results: Participants were Arabs (368; 99.5%), living with family (339; 91.6%), females (256; 69.2%), married (240; 64.9%), holders of a university Bachelor’s degree (110; 29.7%), and unemployed (154; 41.6%). Almost half of the participants (188; 50.8%) had a fall in the past two years, and three quarters (141; 75%) of those claimed that their illness was the reason for their fall. The results indicate that female and 70 years and above old participants are more likely to experience falls than males and younger counterparts respectively. A larger proportion of elderly participants not taking medications did not experience falls, while those on 1-4 medications fallers were less than non-fallers. However as the number of medications increased to 5-8 and more than 8 the number of those experiencing falls was significantly higher than non-fallers.

Conclusions: Falls are prevalent among the elderly population studied and efforts should be made to decrease the incidence of falls, identify those at risk and increase awareness about falls and their health consequences among the elderly and the general public.

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