Falls More Common in Arthritis Patients

Arthritis patients at higher risk for falls and injuries during middle age and older adulthood

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Falls are a big concern for many older adults, but should falling be something that middle-aged adults with arthritis consider, too? A new study suggests so.

This new study, led by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), compared rates of falls among middle-aged and older adults with arthritis and adults without arthritis across the US.

The researchers found that compared to people without arthritis, arthritis patients were more likely to fall twice or more and more likely to be injured from these falls.

"Ask your doctor about activities to maintain good balance."

According to the authors of this new study, which was led by Kamil E. Barbour, PhD, of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, falls are a major cause of injury in older adults, leading to issues like hip fractures, brain injuries and a reduction in mobility.

Dr. Barbour and team wanted to explore how arthritis, which can affect speed and balance, might affect the risk of falling among both middle-aged and older adults.

To do so, the researchers analyzed the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national phone survey involving over 300,000 adults, to look for cases of arthritis and instances of falls within the prior year among those aged 45 or older. Data from states across the US was compared.

Dr. Barbour and team found that overall, about 15.5 percent of adults with arthritis reported having one fall in the previous year, while the same was true for 12.1 percent of adults without arthritis. And, about 21.3 percent of arthritis patients fell twice or more, compared with only 9 percent of those without arthritis.

When considering injuries, about 16.2 percent of arthritis patients reported experiencing an injury from a fall in the previous year, compared with only 6.5 percent of those without arthritis.

These findings seemed to be true across the US.

"Within every state and territory except Guam, the prevalence of two or more falls and fall injuries was significantly higher for those with arthritis compared with those without arthritis," the study's authors reported.

It is important to note that cases of arthritis were self-reported by the participants. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.

"The number of adults with arthritis is expected to increase steadily through at least 2030, putting more adults at higher risk for falls and fall injuries," explained Dr. Barbour and team. "Efforts to address this growing public health problem require raising awareness about the link between arthritis and falls, evaluating evidence-based arthritis interventions for their effects on falls, and implementing fall prevention programs more widely through changes in clinical and community practice."

The researchers noted that exercise and physical therapy efforts aimed at improving gait, balance and lower body strength have been shown to be effective at reducing the risk of falling.

This study was published May 2 in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
May 2, 2014
Last Updated:
May 5, 2014