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Injuries and Deaths from Falls Continue to Worsen in America

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By Thom Disch

The most recent statistics available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that both injuries and deaths from falls are at record high levels. Injuries from falls continue to be the number one cause of emergency room visits, and deaths from falls have moved to the 14th leading cause of death in the USA.  Even with these startling statistics, most Americans don’t take the fall problem seriously.

Whenever I talk with people about this chronic fall problem, I hear three consistent fallacies – or as I like to refer to them, FALLacies. (Yes, I know this is a serious topic and puns aren’t funny, but give me a break; have you ever seen a more perfect set-up?).

FALLacy 1: Falls are an Old Person Problem

When we look at emergency room records, we find that 70 percent of fall injuries happen to people under the age of 67. In fact, 33 percent of fall injuries happen to people under the age of 28. Keep in mind that we are not talking about bruises or scratches here; these are serious injuries that resulted in emergency room visits.

An important footnote: Falls are thought of as a problem for the elderly because falls and fall injuries are more serious for the elderly. When we are younger, a fall injury may mean medical expense and time off from work, but the “younger us” recovers and life returns to normal. As we age, falls result in more serious injuries, and our ability to recover from a fall injury declines. While only 30 percent of fall injuries happen to people 67 and older, these injuries result in 80 percent of fall-related deaths.

FALLacy 2: A Fall is Not Going to Happen to Me

In April 2017, Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked golfer in the world, slipped and fell going down a hardwood staircase, injuring his back. This injury resulted in Johnson missing the 2017 Masters Tournament. In November 2017, singer-songwriter, Carrie Underwood (at age 34) was injured when she fell off her porch. Her injuries included a broken wrist and facial injuries that required 40 to 50 stitches.

People are by nature, optimistic. This optimism bias means that we don’t think bad things will happen to us. In 2015, the most recent data available from the CDC, there were 9.3 million ER visits caused by falls. Spread these injuries across the 320 million people in the U.S., and the likelihood that you might have a serious fall injury shows up as surprisingly high. Oh yeah, don’t forget that is for just one year; multiply that number by your expected lifespan of 79 years. Are you still confident that a fall injury won’t happen to you?

FALLacy 3: Falls are Accidents, Something that We Cannot Control or Prevent

I’m not going to surprise you by saying that we all fall, but it may shock you to know that deaths from falls have risen 150 percent over the past 15 years. By comparison, deaths from auto accidents have actually declined by more than 10 percent during the same time frame. Amazingly enough, this decline has happened while the number of drivers and the number of miles driven have both increased. But, it is not just auto accidents.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the number of on-the-job fall injuries. Over the last 15 years, the number of on-the-job fall injuries per 1,000 workers has fallen from 2.8 to 1.7. That is more than a 35 percent decline in injuries.

Neither of these declines are random, single-year occurrences. Tracking them year by year shows a consistent pattern of improvement. By now my conclusion should be obvious: if we can reduce the number of fatal auto accidents and our businesses can reduce the number of on-the-job fall injuries, we, as a society, should be able to reduce the total number of fall injuries and deaths that occur.

Lessons from Other Successful Safety Programs

The question is: How? How do we reverse the trend and reduce the number of fall injuries and deaths?  We can learn from the auto industry and the transportation safety programs that have been implemented. Businesses know that fall injuries are expensive. Businesses pay attention to things that are expensive. There is much to be learned from OSHA and safety-at-work initiatives. The fact that fall injury prevention is not a simple problem with a quick fix solution makes it a great business opportunity for us. I believe it is an opportunity with a billion-dollar revenue potential.

Next month I will discuss how to implement a three-step business model that you can implement with your customers. Here’s a preview:

  1. Increase our customers’ awareness of the fall problem.
  2. Show our customers what products are available to make their homes safer from potential fall injuries.
  3. Change the thought process and lifestyle of our customers so that fall prevention becomes an integral part of their life.

Heartland Conference Presentation

Thom Disch will be presenting at VGM’s Heartland Conference on Wednesday, June 20. Be sure to catch his presentation, “A Billion Dollar Market Opportunity.” Click here to register and to view the entire Heartland agenda.

About the Author

Thom Disch is a leading expert and speaker on slip, trip, and fall injuries in the United States. Thom is the author of the award-winning book Stop the Slip and works with individuals and businesses reducing fall injuries. Thom has developed dozens of products for the specific purpose of reducing and preventing slips, trips, and falls. For more information, visit