Free Falls Are NOT Free- What Falls Really Cost You

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. March 21, 2016

Free Falls Are NOT Free- What Falls Really Cost You

According to the Center for Disease Control 

  • One out of three older people falls each year. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
  • Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • Since 2004, the unintentional fall death rate of people over the age of 65 have increased by over 40%
  • Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually. Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total.

In a study of people age 72 and older, the average health care cost of a fall injury totaled $19,440, which included hospital, nursing home, emergency room, and home health care, but not doctors’ services (Rizzo et al., 1998). More recent data (the newest available – 2006) show that the average hospital cost for a fall injury is $35,000.

Falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions, and 40% of all nursing home admissions. Forty percent of those admitted do not return to independent living; 25% die within a year. People age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.

As the U.S. population ages, both the number of falls and the costs to treat fall injuries are projected to increase. By 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $54.9 billion (in 2007 dollars).

The direct costs do not account for the long-term effects of these injuries. The other costs of falling can include disability, dependence on others, lost time from work and household activities, and reduced quality of life.

Rizzo JA, Friedkin R, Williams CS, Nabors J, Acampora D, Tinetti ME. Health care utilization and costs in a Medicare population by fall status. Medical Care 1998; 36(8): 1174–88.

*Note: Fall prevention efforts can reduce the risk of falling. Caregivers and older homeowners can become knowledgeable about what needs to be done to make homes as fall-proof as possible. Check here often and search for product ideas that can make you safer in your home!

Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.
Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.


Dr. Bruce Montgomery is a licensed building contractor in Michigan and Florida. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. He has also achieved an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California. He has a wide ranging educational background, including a Master of Science degree in Entomology, with a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in educational administration.