May 6 (UPI) -- Injuries from falls result in roughly 2.2 million emergency room visits a year for older adults, according to figures released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition, these injuries resulted in more than 650,000 hospitalizations for people age 65 and older in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, the agency said.
Unintentional falls were the cause of nearly 92% of all ER visits and hospitalizations for older adults, while injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents led to 8%, the data showed.
Older women were nearly twice as likely as men to require ER treatment and hospitalization for these injuries, and represented about 65% of them.
"Injuries are a leading cause of death among U.S. [older] adults [and] non-fatal injuries among this age group are more common and result in long-term health consequences," the agency researchers wrote.
However, "injuries are not an inevitable part of aging and can be prevented," they said.
Approximately 60,000 older adults die from unintentional injuries annually, according to the CDC.
In 2019, there were 34,000 fall-related deaths, 8,000 "traffic-related motor vehicle crash deaths" and 3,000 drug overdose deaths, the agency said.
In addition, more than 9,000 suicide deaths occur among older adults each year.
Among older adults, there were more than 2.4 million ER visits and 700,000 hospitalizations related to injuries from falls, motor vehicle accidents, drug overdoses and self-harm in 2018, the CDC estimates.
"Falls are generally a symptom of other stuff older adults may have going on, including vision problems, side effects from medications and worsening arthritis," geriatric care specialist Dr. Laura Perry told UPI in a phone interview Thursday.
"Usually, there's not just one cause," said Perry, an assistant professor of geriatrics at the University of California-San Francisco who was not involved with the CDC analysis.
The CDC findings, based on an analysis of diagnostic codes submitted by ER and hospital physicians nationally, are an "indictment" of how the healthcare system is "structured" for older adults, she said.
Part of the problem may be that treatment tends to focus on acute injury rather than addressing any larger issues, Perry said.
Together, injuries from drug overdoses and self-harm accounted for less than 1% of ER visits and hospitalizations among older adults, the CDC said.
"Women had higher rates of fall-related injury ED visits and hospitalizations than did men," the agency researchers wrote.
"The relationship between sex and fall-related injuries has not been fully explained," they said.