Falls and other geriatric syndromes in Blantyre, Malawi: A community survey of older adults

  • TJ Allain
  • M Mwambelo
  • T Mdolo
  • P Mfune


Background: The prevalence of geriatric syndromes (falls, immobility,
intellectual or memory impairment, and incontinence) is unknown in
many resource-poor countries. With an aging population such knowledge
is essential to develop national policies on the health and social needs of
older people. The aim of this study was to provide a preliminary survey
to explore the prevalence of falls and other geriatric syndromes and their
association with known risk factors in people aged > 60 years in urban
Blantyre, Malawi.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional, community survey of adults aged > 60 years. Subjects were recruited at home or in the waiting areas of chronic care clinics. They were interviewed to complete a questionnaire on ageassociated syndromes and comorbid problems. The Abbreviated Mental
Test (AMT) and Timed Up and Go (TUG) tests were carried out.
Results: Ninety-eight subjects were studied; 41% reported falling in the past 12 months, 33% of whom (13% of all subjects) were recurrent fallers.
Twenty-five percent reported urine incontinence, 66% self-reported memory difficulties, and 11% had an AMT score < 7. A history of falling was significantly associated with urine incontinence (p=0.01), selfreported
memory problems (p=0.004) and AMT score < 7 (p=0.02).
Conclusions: Geriatric syndromes, including falls, appear to be prevalent in older people in Blantyre, Malawi. Falling is associated with cognitive impairment and urinary incontinence. There is an urgent need for more understanding of geriatric problems in this setting to develop national policies on health and social needs of older people. It is likely that many of the contributory factors to falls would be amenable to multifactorial interventions similar to those found to be effective in developed countries.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-7262
print ISSN: 1995-7262