National physical activity recommendations for older Australians: Discussion Document

4.8 Injury

The National Ageing Research Institute was commissioned by The Department of Health and Ageing to review the evidence and develop physical activity recommendations for older people.

Page last updated: 01 February 2011

In the 2004–05 NHS, respondents were asked about ‘events in the previous 4 weeks which resulted in injury for which they had medical treatment or had taken some other action’ (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006). Eighteen per cent of respondents (19% males and 18% females) reported having sustained an injury in the previous 4 weeks. Further information was collected about the most recent injury event in that period. Low falls were the most common type of injury event among older people (4% of those aged 75 years and over) and children (11% of those aged 0–14 years). Within the older population, a third of community dwelling older Australians will experience one or more falls in a 12 month period (Hill, Vrantsidis et al. 2004). The costs associated with the 10% of falls causing serious injury have been reported at $498 million per annum, but the consequences of less injurious falls are often neglected. Factors such as fear of falling and reduced activity level can have a profound impact on older people’s function and quality of life and may ultimately increase an individual’s risk of subsequent falls.

Falls prevention

Falls prevention programs need to aim to reduce the risk of falls among both the general population and those who have previously had a fall or who are at high risk of falling. Most falls have a multifactorial aetiology. Nevertheless, a low level of physical activity has been identified as an independent risk factor for falls among older people (Gillespie, Gillespie et al. 2003). There is evidence that a range of single or multiple interventions incorporating physical activity can be effective in reducing falls among older people (Gillespie, Gillespie et al. 2003), which is discussed further in Chapter 9.

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