(RxWiki News) For many seniors, the fear of falling can be nearly as troubling as the act of falling itself. And certain groups of seniors may be more likely to have this fear.
A recent study found that seniors who were minorities, had poorer physical health or had a lower household income were more likely to have a fear of falling.
The researchers noted that the fear of falling can negatively affect quality of life for seniors and lead to increased healthcare costs, so it's important for seniors and their primary caregivers to address this fear.
"Speak to your doctor about ways to prevent falls."
This study was led by Arun Kumar from the Division of Primary Care at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. The research team identified factors that were linked to a fear of falling in a group of seniors.
The study included 1,088 seniors who were at least 65 years of age, were able to walk independently and were not receiving long-term physical therapy. These participants completed several surveys that measured physical activity, social network, social support and risk of falls.
The participants also completed physical tests that measured their balance, their ability to stand up and sit down and the length of time it took to get up from a chair, walk a short distance, turn around and sit back down.
Possible scores to measure fear of falling ranged from 7 to 28, with higher scores representing a greater fear of falling. The participants were split into two groups: those with a low fear of falling (score 7 to 10) and those with a high fear of falling (score of 11 or greater).
Several factors were taken into account that could have affected their fear of falling. These factors included age, sex, height, weight, presence of other conditions, prescribed medications, ethnicity, education level, employment status, current or former job, annual household income, use of public transportation and use of a walking aid.
The researchers found that while 19 percent of seniors reported a high fear of falling, only 6 percent had an actual high risk of falling.
Certain groups of seniors were found to be more likely to have a fear of falling than other groups:
- Participants who were unable to get up from a chair were more than seven times more likely to have a fear of falling than seniors who could.
- Seniors with a lower household income were more than four times as likely to have a fear of falling than those with higher incomes.
- Seniors using a walking aid were more than four times as likely to have a fear of falling than those who could walk without an aid.
- Difficulty using public transportation, poorer physical health, being a minority, self-reported balance problems, lower educational level and a higher BMI were also found to be linked to a fear of falling.
The researchers also found that some factors were linked to a lower chance of having a fear of falling. These factors included greater perceived social support and participating in moderately intense physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week.
The authors of this study noted that the fear of falling can increase the actual risk of falling and needs to be addressed in older adults. They concluded that by addressing this fear, older individuals might remain active and improve their overall quality of life.
This study was published on October 6 in Age and Ageing.
The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme.
The researchers had no potential competing interests to report.