Injuries: Aging Population


Lead Author(s): 

Beatrice J. Edwards, MD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

For older adults, falls and associated injuries threaten health, independence, and quality of life. More than a third of people aged 65 years and older who live independently fall each year; falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and hospital emergency department visits.

Prevalence Musculoskeletal Injuries

On average, more than 8.7 million injury episodes, of which 3.1 million were fall related, for which people sought medical treatment were self-reported by individuals in 2013-2015. The majority of injuries occurred to people between the ages of 18 and 64 years, the ages that comprised 83% of the over-18-year population in the United States. Sprains and strains (31%) were the most frequent injury reported for which medical care was sought, but 18% suffered fractures, 18% severe contusions, and 14% open wounds.

Falls are the primary cause of musculoskeletal injuries as the population ages. Approximately three out of four injuries among people aged 65 years and older for which a person is hospitalized or visits an emergency department is the result of a fall. Trauma, such as auto accidents and other accidents involving machinery or moving objects, is a major cause of musculoskeletal injuries among people ages 18 to 44 years, particularly for injuries where care is received in an emergency department. Other causes of injuries, including sports injuries, are seen in emergency departments for one in three (33%) injuries to people aged 18 to 44 years and one in two (51%) for people under the age of 18. (Reference Table 9B.6 PDF CSV)


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