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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989


ROZENFELD, Suely; CAMACHO, Luiz Antonio Bastos  and  VERAS, Renato Peixoto. Medication as a risk factor for falls in older women in Brazil. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2003, vol.13, n.6, pp. 369-375. ISSN 1020-4989.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the prevalence of falls and their association with the use of medications among elderly women in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Falls among the elderly are likely to gain additional public health importance in Brazil and many other developing countries given the rapid growth of the elderly populations in those nations. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was carried out with women who were participating in the educational, cultural, and medical care activities of the Open University of the Third Age (OUTA), a group that works to promote the welfare of elderly people in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The women in the study were all 60 years old or older, were able to walk, had no cognitive impairment, and were living in the community (rather than living in a facility exclusively for older persons). A questionnaire was used that asked about falls within the 12 months prior to the interview, medications used in the previous 15 days, current and past health problems, and demographic characteristics. Women who were interviewed face-to-face also had their blood pressure checked. Two outcome variables were defined: (1) "fallers," who had suffered one or more falls (contrasted with "nonfallers") and (2) "recurrent fallers," who had had two or more falls (contrasted with those who had had one or no falls, called "nonrecurrent fallers"). RESULTS: A total of 634 women were interviewed face-to-face at the OUTA facilities. Among these in-person interviewees, 23.3% reported one fall in the previous year, and 14.0% reported two or more falls in that period. Considering both prescribed drugs and over-the-counter drugs, only 9.1% of these women were not using any medications, 52.7% were using 1 to 4 medications, 34.4% were using 5 to 10, and 3.8% were using 11 to 17 medications. In comparison to nonusers, users of diuretics who also suffered from musculoskeletal disease were 1.6 times as likely to report having suffered a single fall in the preceding year, after adjusting for cardiovascular disease. Recurrent falls were reported 2.0 times as often among beta-blocker users as among nonusers, after adjusting for cardiovascular disease. The risk of recurrent falls among users of anxiolytics/sedatives who had postural hypotension was 4.9 times as high as among nonusers. CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate an association between single falls and recurrent falls and several groups of medications. Some falls could be avoided through the more rational use of drugs, and measures should be developed and implemented to encourage this.

Keywords : Aged; drug therapy [adverse effects]; accidental falls; Brazil.

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