The incidence and risk factors for falls in adults with rheumatoid arthritis: A systematic review Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: To conduct a systematic review of the incidence and risk factors for falls in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). METHODS: A search was conducted of the electronic databases AMED, CINAHL, MEDLINE, Scopus and The Cochrane Library. Study participants were adults with RA. Outcome measures were falls experienced in the preceding 6-12 months or prospective falls over a 12-month period. Articles were scored for quality using a modified version of the Downs and Black Quality Index Tool. RESULTS: Nine articles were included with mean (range) quality scores 72% (43-93%). The quality assessment revealed inconsistency in falls data attainment. Falls incidence ranged from 10% to 50% and was independent of age, gender or RA disease duration. History of a prior fall (odds ratio (OR) = 3.6 and 9.8) and increasing number of medications (OR = 1.4 and 2.1) were consistently associated with falls in RA. Number of co-morbid conditions, swollen and tender lower extremity joints, anti-depressants, anti-hypertensives, psychotropics, pain intensity and static balance were also identified as significant fall risk factors in at least one study. However, the evidence was limited to a single study or conflicted with other studies. CONCLUSION: In studies of falls in people with RA, there is a wide range in reported falls incidence, which may be due to inconsistency in falls data attainment. Numerous potential fall risk factors have been evaluated, producing limited or conflicting evidence. It is recommended that future studies follow previous consensus guidelines for collecting and reporting falls data.


  • Brenton-Rule, A
  • Dalbeth, N
  • Bassett, S
  • Menz, HB
  • Rome, K

publication date

  • 2015