Taking a fall after slipping on a banana peel has become such a staple in comedy that it is now also a popular idiom in speech. “Slipping on a banana peel” refers to someone doing something foolish. But a slip and fall accident is rarely a laughing matter, and it is often not the result of a foolish mistake. Instead, slip and fall accidents are the second leading cause of accidental death, according to the World Health Organization.
Each year, over 37 million people need to seek medical treatment because of injuries from a fall. Approximately 684,000 people die from injuries suffered in accidental falls.
In fact, when people laugh after watching someone fall, psychologists believe they are expressing relief and a sense of superiority feeling safe while the person falling faces danger. That danger is very real, and it is ingrained in our deepest psyche.
Basic Information About Falls
What exactly constitutes a “fall?” The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a fall as an incident where someone “inadvertently” ends up resting on the floor, ground, or someplace on a “lower level.” People fall for a variety of reasons. They might trip over a hazard, lose their balance because of a medical condition, slip on a slick surface, or fall into an opening they did not detect in time.
Though most injuries resulting from falls are not fatal, they often lead to long-term consequences. Each year, according to WHO, falls cause the loss of over 38 million disability-adjusted life years. Often referred to as DALYs, a disability-adjusted life year measures the years that individuals lose because of a disability. The DALY losses from falls amount to more than all losses caused by burns, poisoning, drowning, and transport injuries combined.
The financial impact of fall injuries is far higher than most people imagine. For example, for the average fall victim treated for injuries in Finland, the cost of treatment alone amounts to over $3,600 in U.S. dollars. This does not include costs affecting other aspects of the victim’s life, such as the need for assistance during recovery.
The Role That Age Plays in Fall Injuries
Statistics show that age is a primary risk factor increasing the likelihood of experiencing a fall and the incidence of severe injuries from a fall.
Children are at Great Risk
Children often suffer falls caused by their evolving development, natural curiosity, urges for independence, and increasing abilities to assume risk. Lack of adequate supervision and hazards in the environment contribute to injuries caused by childhood falls. WHO reports that nearly 40% of the disability-adjusted life years lost due to fall injuries occur in children.
While children suffer a substantial risk of death due to falls, they run an even greater risk of suffering a life-changing injury. According to WHO, for every death of a child in China caused by a fall, four more children suffer permanent disabilities caused by falls. For each fall death involving a child, 13 children end up with injuries that require at least 10 days in the hospital, and 24 more children suffer injuries that result in shorter hospital stays. For every child that dies due to a fall in China, there are 690 more who miss school or seek medical treatment. The bottom line is that falls have a tremendous impact on the health of children.
Risks for Older Individuals
Statistics also show that older individuals run the greatest risk of death or serious injury due to falls. Moreover, the risks increase significantly as people continue to age. Between 20-30% of all older people who fall in the U.S. will suffer serious or at least moderate injuries. These include:
- Hip fractures
- Head trauma
- Spinal injuries
- Multiple fractures
The increased risk of injuries from falls suffered by older individuals can be attributed to numerous factors. Changes in physical condition and the relay and processing of sensory and cognitive information in the body play a role. However, the lack of environments adapted for an aging population also plays a part.
Other Risk Factors for Fall Injuries
Of course, age is not the only factor that increases the likelihood of suffering an injury in a fall.
Does Gender Affect the Risks of Fall Injuries?
In some countries, according to WHO, and overall worldwide, statistics show that men are more likely to die due to fall-related injuries than women. They also lose more disability-adjusted life years due to falls. Many people attribute this greater rate of death and disability due to falls to more risk-taking behaviors in men, as well as workplace hazards associated with traditional male occupations.
Many other issues can affect an individual’s proclivity to fall and suffer reportable injuries. Some are associated with aging or particular occupations, while others may affect individuals in virtually any situation or any stage of life.
For instance, alcohol and substance abuse substantially increase anyone’s tendency to fall and suffer injuries. Occupations that involve working high above the ground, by contrast, pose a substantial risk of injury only for workers in those occupations.
Underlying medical conditions and side effects of medication also significantly increase the likelihood of suffering an injury in a fall, and individuals tend to accrue these risks more as they age.
Preventing Falls and Injuries
Numerous strategies have been proposed to decrease the incidence of falls and the severity of injuries resulting from falls that do occur. These include:
- Increased safety standards in the workplace
- Balance and functional training for the aging population
- Installing soft surfaces on playgrounds
- Reduced use of psychotropic drugs to treat patients
- Vitamin D supplementation
- Increased education and assistance for families with young children
- Assessment and modification of living environments for older individuals
Additionally, enforcing current requirements, such as proper staff ratios at nursing homes and proper maintenance of property open to the public can go a long way toward reducing falls and the resulting injuries.
When individuals who suffer fall injuries caused by a property owner’s negligence file personal injury claims to enforce their rights, they call attention to the problems and provide incentives for landlords to live up to their obligations. If you’re the victim of one of these accidents, we encourage you to contact the Maus Law Firm today.