Livewell hip x-rayLifewell Lifeline Tip: Falls Are Top Cause Of Hip Fractures Among Seniors

Ask any senior and they will tell you that falling and breaking a bone is a very serious. About 5% of seniors who fall will break a bone; common fractures include the pelvic, hip, thigh, leg ankle, and arm and wrist bone. Of these, hip fractures are the most serious. Hip fractures often lead to a loss mobility and independence. They can impair a person’s ability to walk unassisted and might even cause prolonged or permanent disability.

Only about 40% of hip fracture survivors return to their pre-fracture walking status and, even then, may require a cane or walker for support. In fact, half of all seniors hospitalized for hip fracture cannot return home or live independently after the fracture, often needing placement in an assisted living facility or nursing home.

In addition, many seniors experience pain, anxiety and fear of falling and/or injury, which can persist for years after a fracture. Seniors and their caregivers can help prevent the frightful consequences of hip fracture by learning:

  • Who is most at risk and why, and
  • What can be done to reduce the risk of fracture.


Below is the one-year hip fracture mortality and morbidity for seniors 65 years of age or older. Hip fractures have a significant morbidity, with a mortality more than 20% that extends well beyond 12 months following fracture. At 1 year, a large percentage of seniors have residual functional difficulties in normal activities of daily living.

Livewell hip fracture mortality chart


Livewell Lifeline Tip: Who is at Greatest Risk For Hip Fracture?

Some of the most important factors associated with the risk of hip fracture are:

• Having one or more falls. While 1-2% of falls result in a hip fracture, more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by a fall. Older women with memory problems and difficulty seeing have an increased likelihood of falling and sustaining a fracture.

• Age. After 50 year of age, the risk of hip fracture doubles every decade one lives. People older than 85 years are 10 to 15 times more likely to experience a hip fracture than are people aged 60 to 65 years.

• Being small boned and thin in size. In thin women, the incidence of hip fracture is 2 to 3 times higher than in obese women. Thin women tend to have less fat covering the hip area. As a result, the hip bone’s ability to withstand an impact against a hard floor or ground surface is greatly diminished.

• Osteoporosis (weak bones). While both men and women suffer hip fractures, women are 3 times more likely to suffer a hip fracture. One of the main reasons for this is that women most often suffer from osteoporosis. The older you are, the greater the risk of osteoporosis (bones become weaker and less dense as one ages). Although women are four times more likely than are men to develop brittle bones, men also suffer from osteoporosis.

Livewell Lifeline Tip: Learn about Osteoporosis

• In the United States, 13% to 18% of women above the age of 50 years have osteoporosis. The disease can occur at any age and in any racial or ethnic group. However, it is more common in postmenopausal women, especially Asians and Caucasians.

• Postmenopausal women are most susceptible and about four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Menopause naturally results in decreased estrogen, which is important for the regulation and formation of bone. In postmenopausal women, the lifetime risk for osteoporotic fractures is between 40% and 50%. Men usually have bigger bones and do not suffer the rapid loss of bone that women experience.

• Osteoporosis causes bones to become fragile, less resistant to stress and, therefore, more likely to break. It’s caused by hormonal changes, calcium and vitamin D deficiency, and a decrease in physical activity. If not prevented, or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks.

• Osteoporosis is a ‘silent risk factor’ for fractures, just as hypertension (high blood pressure) is for stroke. There are usually no symptoms until the first fracture occurs. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include back pain and loss of height.

• Certain lifestyle factors increase the chances of developing osteoporosis; smoking, drinking too much alcohol, consuming an inadequate amount of calcium, or getting little or no exercise. The Livewell blog has Lifeline Tips on proper exercise and diet…be sure to check them out.

• A sedentary lifestyle places an individual at greater risk for osteoporosis because exercise and activities put weight on bones and help to prevent its weakening. Women who sit for more than nine hours a day are 50% more likely to have a hip fracture than those who sit for less than six hours a day.

• Family history. Both men and women with a maternal family history of hip fractures have a greater risk for developing osteoporosis.

• Health conditions. Osteoporosis and hip fracture risk are associated with certain health conditions, such as endocrine disorders (having an overactive thyroid gland), rheumatoid arthritis, and bed rest or immobility.

• Medicines. Steroids commonly lead to osteoporosis, especially when used long-term. Up to 50% of people taking long-term systemic steroids will eventually experience a fracture.

• Nutritional deficiencies, such as insufficient calcium or vitamin D intake are risk factors for osteoporosis. Sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D is important for optimal bone health as well as the prevention of falls.

There are a number of preventive steps that you (or your caregiver) can take to prevent osteoporosis and decrease your chances of falling and suffering a fracture. Speak to you doctor about your particular risks and ask what you can do to prevent osteoporosis and be sure to check our Livewell blog for Lifeline Tips on diet, exercise and fall prevention.