Too young to fall? People’s chances of falling much higher than they think

People in all age groups are under-estimating their risk of falling, a new survey has found.

The Saga Populus survey of 9,521 people aged between 50 and 79 years old found that every age group significantly underestimated their risk of falling.

Evidence demonstrates that a third of all people over 65 will fall each year , which equates to three million falls across the UK. Falls are estimated to cost the NHS more than £2.3 billion per year , or £4.6m a day , and recurrent falls are associated with increased mortality, extra hospitalisation and higher rates of long term care.

However, falls are not an inevitable part of ageing and physiotherapy services can help prevent them.

Research shows that the biggest risk factor for falling is having fallen already.   In the survey, people in their fifties demonstrated the biggest gap between perception and reality – only 7 per cent of people in their fifties thought they would fall in the next year, yet nearly double (13%) that number had done so in the previous 12 months.

The Saga Populus research, commissioned by Saga Magazine – a publication exclusively for the over 50s, showed that only nine per cent of 60-69-year-olds expected to fall, yet 15 per cent had. Whilst for 70-79-year-olds 12 per cent thought they would, but 17 per cent had.

The figures are being released to coincide with Older People’s Day on October 1 and the publication of a new falls prevention guide, entitled ‘Get Up and Go, a guide to staying steady’. Produced by Saga, in association with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and Public Health England, the leaflet provides examples of exercises to improve strength and balance and tips on how people can fall-proof their home.

The CSP is also launching a Get Up and Go video aimed at helping identify those at risk of falling. The video demonstrates a simple test that can be completed to identify an individual’s risk of falling. The test involves timing how long it takes a person to rise from a chair, walk three metres, turn around, walk back to the chair, and sit down.

Sue Rees, chair of council at the CSP, said:

“We need to get past the idea that falls are an inevitable part of ageing. Many can be prevented by remaining active as we get older and doing simple exercises designed to improve strength and balance.

“Equally, however, these figures show why we must recognise that falls are not only suffered by frail older people and that it’s never too early to begin that preventative work.

“Physiotherapists are experts in helping people to be active and avoid falls and it is important that the NHS provides access to prevention services for anyone deemed to be at risk.”

The CSP’s Falls Prevention Economic Model shows that physiotherapy and tailored physical exercise programmes could prevent 225,300 falls, saving the NHS £331 million every year.

To mark Older People’s Day, hundreds of physiotherapists will be organising events across the UK to celebrate active ageing and promote the profession’s role in supporting independent living. Physiotherapy led group exercise programmes have been shown to be effective and to reduce falls by 29% and the risk of falling by 15% and individual exercise programmes by 32% and 22% respectively.  

More information about physiotherapy’s role in active ageing can be found on the Live Long, Live Well webpage.

Ann Hoskins, Deputy Director Health and Wellbeing, Public Health England:

“Being active at any age is important but particularly as we get older to strengthen muscles and increase stability to help prevent falls.

“We are delighted to work with Saga and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy on the Get Up And Go booklet as we believe it is an important resource to support older people so they can retain their independence and avoid the traumatic consequences of a fall.”

Katy Bravery, Editor, Saga Magazine, said:

"Saga's here to make life better on all fronts for retired people, so we were more than happy to work alongside the CSP and PHE to produce this guide. We realise how important it is for people of all ages to be aware of the potentially life-altering consequences of a perfectly avoidable fall.

You don't have to be old to trip over - and doing so can undermine confidence and age you before your time. If we've prevented even one tumble then we're glad to have helped."

Sue Rees, chair of CSP council, added:

“These findings are a wake-up call; by working in partnership with Saga and Public Health England there is a huge opportunity to reduce the number of falls.”


Note to editors

For further information, or for details of filming opportunities, please call the CSP press office on 020 7306 1111, email Out of hours please call Jon Ryan, head of press and PR, on 07917 091200, Ben Wealthy, senior media advisor, on 07771765172 or John Millington, PR and social media officer, on 07766 994141.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the UK’s professional, educational and trade union body. We have more than 53,000 members, including chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and support workers.
  2. Older People’s Day takes place on 1 October every year to coincide with the UN International Day of Older Persons. The aim is to celebrate the achievements and contributions that older people make to our society and the economy.
  3. Populus interviewed 9,521 Saga respondents, all aged 50+, on a wide range of topics, online between 21 and 27 July 2015. The Saga Populus Panel is the largest research panel (with 40,000 members), gauging the attitudes and opinions of today's over 50s in the UK through monthly surveys. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules; for more information see

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