In fact, chronic diseases may account for 30% of falls in this group.
Researchers at the University of Bristol surveyed 4,050 women aged 60-79 years about whether they had had a fall in the previous 12 months, how many times they had fallen, and whether they had received medical attention for any falls.
Nearly three quarters (2,961) of the women had at least one chronic disease. The risk of falling associated with having any chronic disease was 32%. Circulatory disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, and arthritis were each associated with higher odds of falling, even after adjusting for other factors.
However, no such relation with falling was found for the number of drugs used. After adjusting for chronic diseases, only sedatives and anti-depressants were associated with an increased risk of falling of between 2% and 5%.
These findings suggest that, in public health terms, targeting prevention and control of chronic diseases rather than the number of drugs taken may be a more useful strategy for preventing falls in elderly people, conclude the authors.