Fatal falls in an ethnically diverse urban community: The link between demographic factors and the circumstances surrounding fatal falls

David C. Landy, Michael J. Mintzer, Stephen R. Dearwater, Jill A. Graygo, Carl I. Schulman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: Fatal falls cause more than 15,000 deaths per year in the United States. Despite this, the circumstances surrounding fatal falls in elderly adults are poorly understood. It is unknown whether these circumstances differ across ethnicities, although Hispanic American individuals are at reduced risk for fatal falls. This study sought to describe fatal falls in an urban, predominantly Hispanic, and white non-Hispanic community and to determine the association of demographics with the circumstances surrounding these falls (proximate factors). METHODS: The death certificates and medical examiners' reports for all 328 elderly individuals experiencing a fatal fall in Miami-Dade County, FL, from 2005 to 2007 were reviewed for demographic and proximate factors such as the preceding activity and fall location. RESULTS: Fatal falls in elderly adults were experienced mostly by individuals living in the community (80%) and affected all demographic subgroups, although 80% occurred in individuals older than 74 years. Most fatal falls occurred at home (74%), indoors (75%), and during nonvigorous activities such as walking (58%) and these tended to affect the oldest elderly. In addition, a significant number of fatal falls occurred in public locations, outdoors, and during vigorous activity, with these falls tending to affect younger individuals living without family. Hispanic ethnicity was not associated with proximate factors. CONCLUSIONS: Fatal fall prevention is needed for elderly individuals living in the community and should target the oldest elderly adults living at home while helping to ensure that individuals who are living without family have the appropriate support. These data suggest that Hispanic individuals may benefit from prevention strategies developed in other populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-410
Number of pages6
JournalSouthern medical journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • accidental falls
  • aged
  • Hispanic Americans
  • mortality
  • urban health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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