Prevalence of risk and protective factors for falls in the home environment in a population-based survey of young and middle-aged adult New Zealanders


Correspondence to:
Bridget Kool, Section of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92109, Auckland. Fax: +64 9 373 7503; e-mail:


Objective: To estimate the prevalence of hazards in the home environment that may contribute to unintentional falls among young and middle-aged New Zealanders.

Methods: A random sample of 352 young and middle-aged people (25-60 years) residing in Auckland was drawn from the electoral roll. The prevalence of environmental factors that may have an impact on risk of falls was investigated using a structured interviewer-administered questionnaire.

Results: Potential risk factors for falls were common in the study population (ladder use in the past year – 64%; inability to reach a light from bed – 21%; lack of handrails for stairs – 54%). Only 9% and 11% of baths and showers, respectively, had grab or hand rails; 42% and 56% had anti-skid mats/surfaces. Compared to those reporting no socio-economic deprivation characteristics, respondents reporting one or more such characteristics were less likely to use a ladder and have indoor stairs, but more likely to have outdoors stairs. There was no significant relationship between socio-economic status and presence of a grab/handrail or antiskid mats/surfaces in or near showers/baths.

Conclusion and implications: Structural hazards that are likely to result in falls at home are common in New Zealand. The greater prevalence of some environmental risk factors for falls among the least socially deprived population may account for the inconsistent association between socio-economic deprivation and fall-related injuries reported in previous research. Information regarding the contribution of these and associated factors to the occurrence of falls can help target and reduce the risks involved.