US researchers analysed data on 5,086 adults over 40 years old from a health survey which included a test for balance.
In 35 per cent of cases there was evidence of vestibular dysfunction, characterised by imbalance and an illusory sense of motion.
Older and non-white adults were more likely to have vestibular dysfunction, as were patients with diabetes.
The researchers said: 'These data suggest the importance of diagnosing, treating and potentially screening for vestibular deficits to reduce the burden of fall-related injuries and deaths.'
They said that vestibular physical therapy could prove useful as a therapeutic option for those at risk. Groups the researchers suggested as screening candidates included elderly and non-white people, and patients with diabetes.
- Arch Intern Med 2009; 169: 938-44.
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