Chronic conditions and the high risk of falling

Lifeline Connections for the Healthcare Professional

A Philips Research study shows that the risk of a serious fall is higher than average for seniors living with chronic conditions. Even younger seniors are at risk.

It’s a well-known fact that one in three seniors falls each year, but some segments of the age 65+ cohort fall more often and are more likely to experience a significant injury than others. One such segment is seniors of all ages who are living with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

As 53-year old MS sufferer Lucy D. describes, Lifeline’s peace of mind allows her to get more enjoyment out of life by giving her access to expert help in case of a fall or medical emergency. “Two years ago my MS advanced to secondary progressive and I started to use a cane. As a busy wife and mother of two, I wear my Lifeline every day because it allows me to do the things I want to do on my own and independently. Lifeline isn’t just for seniors and it’s more than a help button. I’m thrilled with the freedom it provides me and many others like me.”

1 in 3

older adults will fall this year


of older adults who fall cannot get up without help 5

“Lifeline isn’t just for seniors and it’s more than a help button.”

Philips Research recently released a retrospective study of 70,000 falls among 145,000 Lifeline subscribers that revealed a pronounced correlation between chronic conditions, falls risk and which conditions are most likely to result in a serious fall injury. The data show that older adults with chronic conditions fall and require emergency transport to hospital up to 54% more often than those without chronic conditions.

In Canada, adults aged 65+ now account for 16% of the total population and this is projected to rise to more than 22% by 2031. Within the Philips study population, 72% had at least one chronic condition, 68% reported having two or more and 20% stated they had at least five.

The study showed a direct correlation between the number of chronic conditions reported and the frequency of falling. Seniors living with five or more chronic conditions had 40% more falls than those who don’t have any chronic illnesses. Those living with three chronic conditions had 15% more falls that require transport to the hospital.

The study also revealed a correlation between specific chronic conditions and the need for transport to hospital after a fall compared to people with no chronic illnesses.

Emergency transport due to falls was required more often by seniors with these chronic conditions


of seniors have at least one chronic condition and 68% have two or more

Seniors with five or more chronic conditions reported 40% more falls that required hospital transport

In addition to their impact on fall rates, chronic diseases cost the Canadian economy $90 billion each year for treatment, and are responsible for 67% of all direct health care costs.

The risk of developing chronic disease increases with age but can be mitigated through healthy living. For example, it is estimated that 90% of type 2 diabetes, 80% of coronary heart disease, and one third of cancers could be prevented by healthy eating, regular exercise and not smoking.

Chronic disease and other factors effecting overall health and well-being for adults 65 years and older:

  • Arthritis


    Reduced muscular strength and standing balance increases the risk of falling.

  • Obesity


    Lack of exercise can lead to weak legs, which increases the chance of falling.

  • Functional limitations

    Functional limitations

    Impairs mobility and is a measurable predictor for recurrent falls.

  • Multiple medications

    Multiple medications

    Numerous factors are associated with an increased risk of falling and fall-related injuries, but none is as potentially preventable or reversible as medication use.

  • Fear of falling

    Fear of falling

    Fear of falling often leads to a reduced activity level which in turn increases the risk of falling.

  • Hypertension


    Episodes of light-headedness and dizziness interfere with balance, coordination, and vision.

  • Diabetic


    Common complications, such as peripheral neuropathy, retinopathy and nephropathy, work independently and interdependently to increase falls risk.

Chronic health conditions can increase falls risk significantly

  • 4 in 5 older adults have at least 1 chronic health problem.
  • 1 in 3 have activity limitation associated with those conditions.





Functional Limitations


Fear of Falling


Multiple Medications






Request a free copy of the Philips chronic conditions study

Chronic conditions have been shown to have a direct impact on falls risk for older adults. This retrospective study shows the relationship between chronic conditions and the likelihood of falling, and the steps that can be taken to mitigate this risk.

Read online


  1. Lifeline internal data, January 2012-June 2014.
  2. Lifeline Systems, Personal Emergency Response Systems Achieve Positive Outcomes, 1993.
  3. tatsCan population projections, 1971 to 2061.
  4. StatsCan, Canadian .Community Health Survey, Health indicator pro le, 2014, CANSIM 105-0501.
  5. Chronic Diseases Related to Aging and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Report of the Standing Committee on Health, 41st Canadian Parliament, May 2012.