Elderly have a great fear of falling

Published: 7 February 2018

70 percent of all adults over 70 years feel some kind of concern about falling. More women than men experience fall-related concerns, and the factors of concern are different for both sexes. It shows a new study at Luleå University of Technology.

There are previous studies that show that fall-related concerns lead to less involvement and participation in fewer activities. Anxiety can also occur without falling. The purpose of the study was to understand how it occurs and how the relationships between fall-related concerns and other inconvenient factors look like.

Different factors for men and women

A great deal of concern can be explained by physical ability, fear and life expectancy, and the main results showed no relation between fall-related concerns and past falls.

According to the results, many report fall-related concerns. Of the 153 participants in the study, 70 percent indicated that they were experiencing some concern about falling, even if they had not previously fallen. For women, 80 percent showed fall-related concern, while men were 54 percent. For men there were more physical aspects, and for women, the number of medicines they have on prescription is a factor.

– It is a known phenomenon that more women have fall-related concerns, but that the difference this big and that women and men have different models for correlated factors were unexpected. The discovery has resulted in me taking a clear position on gender in all my analyzes within the project, says Mascha Pauelsen.

Holistic view of fall-related concerns

Data was recorded on many possible factors and this is the first time that such a comprehensive model has shown that it is the reality.

– At community level, these findings mean that a reduced level of activity due to fall-related concerns will be addressed with more than general balance and strength exercises. It's not just physical factors behind fall-related concerns, but the study shows that both physical and mental factors are the basis of concern, Mascha Pauelsen continues.

The study is a first survey that will form the basis for future studies.

From a research perspective, the next logical step is to figure out how physical ability and fall-related concerns affect each other. This has already begun in the Human Movement Science Laboratory at Luleå University of Technology.

The study is part of the Balancing Human and Robot project, BAHRT, which is funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Mascha Pauelsen

Mascha Pauelsen, PhD Student position

Phone: +46 (0)920 491732
Organization: Physiotherapy, Health and Rehabilitation, Department of Health Sciences

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