Alcohol and injuries in elderly people


Dr Wendy L. Adams, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University Geriatrics Center, 600 S. 42nd Street, Omaha, NE 69198-56 20, USA. Tel: + 1 (402) 559 7512; fax: + 1 (402) 559 8228; e-mail:


Injuries are a common cause of morbidity and mortality among elderly people. Falls are the most common type of accident, accounting for around 40% of injuries. There is substantial evidence that heavy alcohol use is an important risk factor for injuries in younger people, but results of the few studies of alcohol and injuries among elderly people have been inconsistent. In this paper, we review the literature on the effects of alcohol on gait and balance and present reasons that a causal relationship between alcohol and injuries is biologically plausible. We review the epidemiological studies of the relationship between alcohol and falls, hip fractures and other injuries in the elderly population and discuss sources of error in these studies. Selection bias, small sample sizes, measurement error and potential confounders such as age, gender, health status and medications may have played a substantial role in negative results from several studies. Further research that will help clarify the relationship between alcohol and injuries in elderly people is sorely needed.