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Research Summary

Alcohol’s Role in Fall-Related Injuries in Younger and Older Adults

Falls can cause substantial morbidity and mortality. To study possible contributions of alcohol and benzodiazepines to falls in adults of all ages, investigators in Austria assessed use of these substances in 1611 injury patients seen in the emergency department of (and later admitted to) a trauma surgery hospital.

  • Thirty-eight percent (615) of patients were injured in a fall.
  • Men with falls were significantly more likely than women with falls to test positive for alcohol (40% versus 8%), benzodiazepines (9% versus 3%), or both (3% versus 0.3%).
  • Patients aged 18–70 years with falls were significantly more likely than those over 70 with falls to test positive for alcohol.
  • In an age-matched sample including all patients with injuries, those with falls were significantly more likely than those with other injury causes to test positive for alcohol (50% versus 21% for men; 19% versus 3% for women).
  • Use of benzodiazepines alone or with alcohol did not significantly differ between those with falls and those with other injury causes.

Comments:

Alcohol and, less commonly, benzodiazepines appear to contribute substantially to serious injuries due to falls. Falls are usually viewed as an older-adult problem. However, alcohol’s involvement in falls among younger adults in this study emphasizes that further attention should be given to this concern in adults of all ages.

Richard Saitz, MD, MPH

Reference:

Kurzthaler I, Wambacher M, Golser K, et al. Alcohol and benzodiazepines in falls: an epidemiological view. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005;79(2):225–230.


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