Falls are a major problem for older people and recurrent fallers are especially prone to severe consequences due to falls. This study investigated the association between chronic conditions and falls.
Responses from 872 older persons (age 65-98) to a health questionnaire were used in the analyses. Characteristics and disease prevalence between recurrent fallers, one-time fallers and non-fallers were compared. A hierarchical clustering method was applied to find combinations of chronic conditions that were associated with recent recurrent falling.
The results showed that recurrent fallers had a higher number of diseases (median 4, interquartile range, IQR = 2.0-5.0) compared to non-fallers (median 2, IQR = 1.0-3.0). Eight clusters were formed based on the data. The participants in the low chronic disease cluster were younger, more physically active, not frail, and had fewer geriatric conditions. Multiple chronic disease cluster participants were older, less physically active, overweight (body mass index, BMI > 30), at risk of malnutrition, and had more geriatric conditions. Significantly increased risk of recurrent falls relative to the low chronic cluster was found for respondents in the osteoporosis cluster and multiple chronic disease cluster (OR = 5.65, 95% confidence interval CI: 1.23-25.85, p = 0.026, and OR = 13.42, 95% CI: 2.47-72.96, p = 0.002, respectively). None of the clusters were associated with increased risk of one-time falling.
The results implicate that the number of chronic diseases is related with risk of recurrent falling. Furthermore, the results implicate the potential of identifying certain combinations of chronic diseases that increase fall risk by analyzing health record data, although further studies are needed with a larger population sample.