Abstract Background An aging society incurs great losses due to fall-related injuries and mortalities. The foreseeable increased burden of fall-related injury among older people requires a regular nationwide study on the fall epidemic and prevention strategies. Methods The fall epidemic was examined using data from three consecutive waves of the National Health Interview Survey (2005, 2009, and 2013). Common explanatory variables across these surveys included sociodemographic factors (age, sex, and difficulty in performing activities of daily living (ADL) or instrumental ADL), biological factors (vision, comorbidities, urinary incontinence, and depressive symptoms), and behavioral risk factors (sleeping pill use, and frequency of exercise). After the univariate and bivariate analyses, the prevalence of falls was investigated using multiple linear regression models adjusted for age group, sex, and year of survey. A multivariate logistic regression model for falls with adjustments for these common explanatory variables was established across three waves of surveys. The effect of fall prevention programs was examined with the effect size in terms of age-specific and sex-specific prevalence of falls and fall-related hospitalization rates during 2005 and 2009. Results For each survey, there were consecutively 2722; 2900; and 3200 respondents with a mean age of 75.1, 75.6, and 76.4 years, respectively. The multiple linear regression model yielded a negative association between the prevalence of falls and year of survey. Several sociodemographic and biological factors, including female sex, difficulty in performing one basic ADL, difficulty in performing two or more instrumental ADLs, unclear vision, comorbidities, urinary incontinence, and depressive symptoms, were significantly associated with falls. In contrast to the universal positive effect on the prevalence of falls among older adults, the effect size of fall-related hospitalization rates revealed a 2% relative risk reduction only for those aged 65–74 years, but deteriorated for those aged 75–84 (− 10.9%). Conclusion Although the decline in fall prevalence over time supports existing fall intervention strategies in Taiwan, the differential prevention effect and identification of risk factors in older people suggest the necessity of adjusting fall prevention programs.