Basic Facts

In older people, one in five falls causes a serious injury, such as a fracture or head injury. Fractures in older people may lead to: 

  • Reduced mobility, independence, and ability to do daily activities
  • Moving into long-term care facilities, like nursing homes
  • Chronic pain
  • Worse quality of life
  • Higher risk of death

The Most Common Types of Fractures

There are several types of fractures:

  • Simple (closed). The broken bone stays within your skin.
  • Compound (open). The broken bone tears through skin.
  • Incomplete (greenstick or hairline). The crack in the bone does not go all the way through the width of the bone.
  • Complete. The bone breaks all the way across the bone. 

Fragility Fractures

This type of fracture comes from a very small impact, such as while doing daily activities or from a small fall. A healthy younger person would not have a fragility fracture. 

One in four men and one in two women over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. This disease makes bones fragile. Osteoporosis affects people of all ethnic backgrounds. More than 2 million people in the United States have fractures related to osteoporosis.

How Common are Fractures?

Fractures happen more easily as people age. A person age 85 or older is four times more likely to break a bone than a person between the ages of 65 and 75.

Older adults are most likely to suffer fractures of the:

  • Hip or pelvis
  • Wrist or arm
  • Bones in the spine or backbone (vertebrae)
  • Leg or ankle
  • Hand
  • Ribs 

Up to 300,000 older adults break their hips each year. Ninety percent of the time a fall causes these fractures. The risk of death is about 25 percent in the year after a hip fracture. About three-quarters of people who survive a hip fracture go back to their prior ability level. Half of them may have some limitations on their mobility and need a cane or walker to get about. About 25 percent of survivors are in long-term care a year after their hip fracture.


Last Updated December 2022

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