STUDY OBJECTIVE--This analysis aimed to determine the frequency of falls in men and women aged 50 years and over and to explore whether age variation in fall frequency may explain variation in the incidence of distal forearm fracture in women. DESIGN--This was a cross sectional survey. SETTING--Primary care based registers in four UK areas. PARTICIPANTS--Altogether 501 men and 702 women age 50-79 years participated. MAIN RESULTS--A total of 131 (26.1%) men and 181 (25.8%) women reported falling in the previous year. In women, the frequency of falls rose with age (chi 2 test for trend 4.33; p = 0.04), with no obvious early post-menopausal peak or subsequent decline. Men aged 50-54 years had a significantly increased risk of falls compared with women of this same age group, (odds ratio (OR) = 2.4; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3, 4.6), though above this age, the risk of falling was greater in women (OR = 1.2; 95% CI 0.9, 1.5). CONCLUSION--There are important differences in the frequency of falls in relation to age and sex. The data suggest that variation in fall frequency per se does not explain age variation in the incidence of distal forearm fracture in women.