What is the link between alcohol drinking and falls requiring hospitalization? We might assume that the more people drink, the more likely they are to have serious falls. That is, falls requiring a hospital stay.
To study the matter, researchers analyzed 25,637 adults over about 11.5 years. That was a total of 299,211 person years. All were community dwellers age 40–79 years. All participants were in the EPIC-Norfolk Study. That’s a cohort study in Norfolk, UK.
To measure weekly alcohol consumed, each completed a validated Food Frequency Questionnaire. Researchers then placed people into one of four categories. These were non-drinkers, light drinkers, moderate drinkers, or heavy drinkers. Of course, the researchers studied falls requiring hospital stays. In addition, they adjusted for a large number of things that might otherwise explain any link.
They found that 19.2 % of non-drinkers needed hospitalization for a fall during follow up. That compares with 13.7% of low drinkers, 10.9 % of moderate drinkers, and 12.3% of heavy drinkers. Also, the cumulative incident rates for falls at 121-180 months of follow up were 11.08% for teetotalers. They were 7.53% for low drinkers, 5.91% for moderate drinkers, and 8.20% for heavy drinkers.
In summary, drinkers had a lower risk of falls requiring hospitalization than abstainers. And that was true of all drinking levels. So not drinking alcohol increases the risk of serious falls.
Similarly, others studying alcohol and falls have fund the same thing. For example, a study compared moderate drinkers with life-long alcohol abstainers. Researchers followed them for three years. Moderate drinkers were 33% less likely to have a fall needing medical help. And they were 42% less likely to have two or more falls.
II. Risk of Falls
Increasing the risk of serious falls are being older, having a history of falling, abstaining from alcohol, and being female. Also, many conditions contribute to fall risk. They include these.
- Balance disorders
- Visual impairment
- Low blood pressure
- Many meds
- Knee pain
- Lower back pain
- Spinal fracture
- Parkinson’s disease
III. Resources: Alcohol Drinking and Falls
Tan, G. et al. The relationship between alcohol intake and falls hospitalization. Geriat Geront Int, 2021, 21, 657-663.
Ortolá R. et al. Patterns of alcohol consumption and risk of falls in older adults. Osteo Int, 2017, 28(11), 3143-3152.
Alcohol drinking patterns and risk of functional limitations in two cohorts of older adults. Clin Nutr, 2017, 36(3), 831-838.
Improve Balance Videos
Darowski, A. Falls. NY: Oxford U. Press, 2008.
Evans, B. (Ed). Accidental Falls. Risk, Prevention, and Outcomes. NY: Nova, 2015.
Haslam, R. And Stubbs, D. Understanding and Preventing Falls. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis, 2006.
HCPro. Falls Prevention. Marblehead, MA: HCPro, 2005. (Video)
Vincent, M. And Moreau, T. Accidental Falls. NY: Nova, 2008.