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What can cause a fall?

Risk factors and injuries associated with falls can be classified as personal (also known as intrinsic) risk factors and environmental (also known as extrinsic) risk factors. Whist a fall can be caused by a single risk factor, it are more likely to be caused by multiple risk factors.

Examples of risk factors:

Has fallen in the past Sore feet and unsafe shoes
Health problems Loss of balance
Medications Changes in walking
Poor diet Not being active
Poor or loss of eyesight Home hazards


Venn diagram illustrating what factors can cause a fall

For a fall to occur, a person must be performing an activity. For example, moving from the bed to the bathroom in the evening. The fall may occur because the older person has poor eye sight (intrinsic), they tripped on a carpet in the bedroom (extrinsic) and they were moving in a hurry to move from their bedroom to the toilet (activity).

How to tell if someone is at risk of falling:

  • Recent fall or a near miss
    • Did they present with an injury that was caused from a fall?
    • Did they say they slipped or tripped?
  • Symptoms of dizziness
  • Acute illness
  • Functional decline or increased difficulty performing everyday activities
  • Declining physical and personal standards
    • Unsteadiness when walking, balance or performing basic transfers (movements)
  • Evidence of a fear of falling or loss of confidence
  • Evidence of poor nutrition
  • Withdrawing from community activities
  • Increased confusion, decreased mood or increased memory concerns

Falls risk screening tools are used to guide the identification of an older person’s risk of having a fall.

Want more information on screening tools?

Want to learn what you can do to help prevent falls?

Want to learn what works to reduce falls?

Stay On Your Feet® is provided by Injury Matters and funded by the Western Australian Department of Health.

Find out more
Government of Western Australia Department of Health Injury Matters