Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

CUNY Faculty Studies the Relationship between Falls and Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Older Adults

Dr. William T. Gallo, a Professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy along with a graduate student and colleagues examines the potential relationship between different forms of complementary and alternative medicine use and falls among older adults in New York City. The findings were published in the Journal of Alternative and complementary Medicine.


[Photo: Dr. William T. Gallo]

This study utilized data from the cross-sectional study from the New York City Health Indicators Project survey.  The Health Indicators Project modified questionnaire items from several national surveys. Participants were recruited from 56 senior centers located in the 5 boroughs of New York City.

The researchers were particularly interested in a dichotomous outcome variable for falls. Participants indicated that they had experienced no falls during the past year or one or more falls. The team analyzed five CAM therapy types: alternative medical systems, biologically based therapies, manipulative and body-based therapies, mind-body therapies, and movement therapies.

The prevalence of falls among older adults in New York City was 26.8%, which was consistent with the national average. The prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use was 92%. Participants who had tried manipulative and body-based therapies were significantly more likely to report falling in the past 12 months, after adjustment for age and sex. The authors considered whether this observed association may reflect older adults with chronic pain who are already at risk for falling and are seeking therapy for this pain. None of the other complementary and alternative medicine types were significantly associated with falls.

The authors concluded that because of the growing popularity of complementary and alternative medicine use within this population, complementary and alternative medicine practitioners should be included in falls prevention strategies. Particular attention should be taken to include practitioners who provide manipulative and body-based therapies (e.g., chiropractors, osteopaths, physical and massage therapists) because of the high risk for falls observed among individuals who use these therapies.