Falling is a serious health risk for middle-aged and older adults because it contributes to increased risk of injuries, hospitalizations, and death.
In a study from Yale University, researchers found that people who take several prescription medications have a higher risk of serious falls.
Drugs linked to serious falls include those commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia (benzodiazepines), as well as muscle relaxants and prescription opioids.
This increased risk can affect many people who are younger than 65.
The study is published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. The lead author is Julie Womack, an associate professor at the Yale School of Nursing.
The researchers used data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS), a national study of individuals who receive care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA).
They found 13,000 fall cases and compared them to healthy people of similar age, race, sex, and HIV status.
Results showed the fall risk factors included prescription medication use, and alcohol and illegal drug use.
They also showed that falls were a problem for middle-aged patients.
Although health care providers typically think about falls in people over age 65, these people were primarily in their 50s and falls were an important concern.
The team also found that the use of more than one drugs at the same time plays a big role in serious falls among patients.
They noted that people treated for HIV often take several medications and often at a younger age.
Another important finding is the role of alcohol and illegal drug use in falls.
The team suggests that programs designed to prevent serious falls in older adults may need to be modified to address risks for middle-aged adults.
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