June 2013

Falls associated with vision impairment cost the NHS more than £25 million per year in hospital admissions, according to research into the links between sight loss and falls. The findings, published by Thomas Pocklington Trust, brings together evidence from various studies which shows, among other things, that older people with sight loss are much more prone to falls than their sighted peers, and the risk of injury is nearly twice as high.

Key Facts: Falls and sight loss

  • Falls are the leading cause of hospitalisation for people aged over 65 and the leading cause of death from injury among people aged over 75.
  • Older people with sight loss are more likely to fall than their sighted peers and the risk of injury from falls and the rate of hip fracture is nearly twice as high.
  • 8 per cent of falls resulting in a hospital admission occur in individuals with sight loss.
  • 3.8 per cent of falls that result in hospital admissions could be directly attributed to visual impairment and cost 10 per cent of the local NHS cost of treating accidental falls.
  • Most falls occur in the kitchen or on the stairs.
  • People with sight loss tend to adjust their gait in order to avoid obstacles, this inadvertently increases the likelihood of a fall.

How can this research help?

The research is important in addressing and reducing the risk of falls among older people with sight loss. It suggests further areas of research and suggests key issues for health and social care professionals to consider when working with older people with sight loss.

Links: 

Research Discussion Paper: Falls in Older People with Sight Loss: A Review of Emerging Research and Key Action Points – PDF version and Word version