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BACKGROUND: Falls are a major cause of disability and death in older people, particularly women. Cross-sectional surveys suggest that some risk factors associated with a history of falls may be sex-specific, but whether risk factors for incident falls differ between the sexes is unclear. We investigated whether risk factors for incident falls differ between men and women. METHODS: Participants were 3298 people aged ≥60 who took part in the Waves 4-6 surveys of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. At Wave 4, they provided information about sociodemographic, lifestyle, behavioural and medical factors and had their physical and cognitive function assessed. Data on incident falls during the four-year follow-up period was collected from them at Waves 5 and 6. Poisson regression with robust variance estimation was used to derive relative risks (RR) for the association between baseline characteristics and incident falls. RESULTS: In multivariable-adjusted models that also controlled for history of falls, older age was the only factor associated with increased risk of incident falls in both sexes. Some factors were only predictive of falls in one sex, namely more depressive symptoms (RR (95% CI) 1.03 (1.01,1.06)), incontinence (1.12 (1.00,1.24)) and never having married in women (1.26 (1.03,1.53)), and greater comorbidity (1.04 (1.00,1.08)), higher levels of pain (1.10 (1.04,1.17) and poorer balance, as indicated by inability to attempt a full-tandem stand, (1.23 (1.04,1.47)) in men. Of these, only the relationships between pain, balance and comorbidity and falls risk differed significantly by sex. CONCLUSIONS: There were some differences between the sexes in risk factors for incident falls. Our observation that associations between pain, balance and comorbidity and incident falls risk varied by sex needs further investigation in other cohorts.

Original publication




Journal article


Bmc geriatr

Publication Date





Falls, Gender, Risk factors, Accidental Falls, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Cognition, Comorbidity, Cross-Sectional Studies, Depression, England, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Incidence, Life Style, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Middle Aged, Pain, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Sex Characteristics