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Incidence and costs of unintentional falls in older people in the United Kingdom
  1. P Scuffham1,
  2. S Chaplin1,
  3. R Legood2
  1. 1York Health Economics Consortium Ltd, University of York, UK
  2. 2Health Economics Research Centre, University of Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P Scuffham, York Health Economics Consortium Ltd, Level 2, Market Square, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5NH, UK; 


Study objective: To estimate the number of accident and emergency (A&E) attendances, admissions to hospital, and the associated costs as a result of unintentional falls in older people.

Design: Analysis of national databases for cost of illness.

Setting: United Kingdom, 1999, cost to the National Health Service (NHS) and Personal Social Services (PSS).

Participants: Four age groups of people 60 years and over (60–64, 65–69, 70–74, and ⩾75) attending an A&E department or admitted to hospital after an unintentional fall. Databases analysed were the Home Accident Surveillance System (HASS) and Leisure Accident Surveillance System (LASS), and Hospital Episode Statistics (HES).

Main results: There were 647 721 A&E attendances and 204 424 admissions to hospital for fall related injuries in people aged 60 years and over. For the four age groups A&E attendance rates per 10 000 population were 273.5, 287.3, 367.9, and 945.3, and hospital admission rates per 10 000 population were 34.5, 52.0, 91.9, and 368.6. The cost per 10 000 population was £300 000 in the 60–64 age group, increasing to £1 500 000 in the ⩾75 age group. These falls cost the UK government £981 million, of which the NHS incurred 59.2%. Most of the costs (66%) were attributable to falls in those aged ⩾75 years. The major cost driver was inpatient admissions, accounting for 49.4% of total cost of falls. Long term care costs were the second highest, accounting for 41%, primarily in those aged ⩾75 years.

Conclusions: Unintentional falls impose a substantial burden on health and social services.

  • accidental falls
  • cost of illness
  • economics

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  • Funding: this study was partially funded by a grant from the National Collaborating Centre for Nursing and Supportive Care. This study builds on a previous study supported by Eli Lilly and the Royal National Institute for the Blind. Any views expressed in this article are those of the author alone.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.