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Risk Factors for Falls

lacing sneakers Risk factors for falls can be intrinsic, such as vision impairment or muscle weakness, or extrinsic, such as environmental hazards or medication use. Falls are often a result of multiple factors and the risk of falling increases significantly with the number of risk factors. Be aware of the risk factors for falls and screen clients to identify those most at-risk for falling.

Examples of Intrinsic Risk Factors include:
  • Muscle weakness
  • Gait or balance impairment
  • Vision impairment
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Medical conditions (depression, postural hypotension, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease, for example)
Examples of Extrinsic Risk Factors include:
  • Use of 4 or more medications, including OTCs, herbals and supplements
  • Use of any psychoactive medications. For example:
    • Neuroleptics
    • Benzodiazapines
    • Antidepressants
    • Sedative hypnotics
    • Anxiolytics
    • Antipsychotics
  • Use of any of the following classes of medications:
    • Class 1A antiarrhythmics
    • Antiparkinson agents
    • Anticholinergics
    • Anticonvulsants
    • Muscle Relaxants
    • Analgesics
  • Lack of, or improper use of, assistive devices
  • Environmental hazards (poor lighting, clutter or lack of handrails, for example)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor footwear
Some of the strongest risk factors include:
  • Muscle weakness
  • Previous falls
  • Gait or balance impairment
  • Medications

For more information about risk factors for falls, see the CDC’s STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) Tool Kit for Health Care Providers, the American Geriatrics Society and British Geriatrics Society’s Clinical Practice Guideline: Prevention of Falls in Older Persons (2010) and City Health Information: Preventing Falls in Older Adults in the Community.


Last Updated: February 9, 2012