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Gender Differences in Emergency Department (ED) Patient Mechanical Fall Risk and Openness to Communication with Providers

Bryan G Kane, MD, Michael C Nguyen MD, Robert D Barraco, MD MPH, Brian Stello MD, Arnold Goldberg MD, Clare M Lenhart, PhD MPH, Bernadette G Porter BA ,Anita Kurt PhD, RN, Marna Rayl Greenberg DO, MPH

Objectives: The CDC reports that among older adults (≥65), falls are the leading cause of injury-related death and rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men. We set out to determine ED patient perceptions (analyzed by gender) about their personal fall risk compared to their actual risk and their comfort level in discussing their fall history or a home safety plan with their healthcare provider.

Methods: After IRB approval, a convenience sample of ED patients (50 years or older) was surveyed at a suburban Level 1 Trauma center with an annual ED census of approximately 75,000. The survey included demographics, the Falls Efficacy Scale (FES), and questions about fall risk. The FES is a validated survey measuring concern of falling. Analysis included descriptive statistics and assessment of fall risk and fear of falling by gender using chi-square and t-tests as indicated. Significance was set at 0.05.

Results: Of the 150 surveys collected, 149 indicated gender and were included in this analysis. Fifty-five percent of the sample was female (n=82); 45% (n=67) were male. Most (98%) were Caucasian and 22% reported living alone. There was not a difference in the mean age of female participants 69.79 years (SD=12.08) vs. males 68.06 (SD=10.36; p=0.355). See Table 1 for distribution of reported fall risk factors between genders. Collectively, these variables resulted in a mean risk of falling score of 3.37(SD=1.62) out of 9. On average, female participants had a significantly higher objective risk of falling than did male participants (3.65 vs. 3.02 p=0.018). Similarly, females also reported greater fear of falling than did males (FES score 12.33 vs. 9.62; p=0.005).

Significantly more females (41.5%) than males (23.9%, p=0.037) reported having fallen in the past year. Of the 50 participants reporting past-year falls, only 19 (12 female and 7 male, p=0.793) sought treatment.

The correlation between actual fall risk and fear of falling were greater among females (p

The majority of patients (76.4%) were willing to speak to a provider about their fall risk. No significant difference was noted in willingness to discuss this topic with a provider based on gender (p=0.619), objective fall risk (p=0.145) or FES score (p=0.986). Similarly, many respondents indicated a willing to discuss a home safety evaluation with a provider (58.1%) and responses did not vary significantly by gender (p=.140), objective fall risk (p=0.168) or FES score (p=.584).

Conclusion: In this study, female ED patients reported a greater fear of falling, had a significantly higher objective risk of falling, and had a higher correlation between their perceived risk and actual risk of falling than did males. The majority of both genders were amenable to discussing their fall risk and a home safety evaluation with their provider.


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Emergency Medicine | Medical Specialties | Medicine and Health Sciences


Department of Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine Faculty

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