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Retirement Planning > Social Security

Fear of falling makes it more likely

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Every senior needs to be wary of falling, as a fall can lead to very serious injury for those in their later years. However, for some, the fear of falling may actually precipitate a fall, according to an article in the British Medical Journal.

A senior who is excessively afraid of falling may restrict activities, which can result in a loss of muscle tension and strength, which in turn increases the risk of a fall.

“Excessive fear of falling can lead to needless restriction in participation in physical and social activities, resulting in physical deconditioning, poor quality of life, social isolation, depression and psychological distress,” said researcher Stephen Lord in the Aug. 19 issue of the medical journal.

Researchers in Sydney, Australia, enrolled 500 people between the ages of 70 and 90 and compared participants’ perceived risk of falling with their actual physiological condition. They were divided into four groups: vigorous, anxious, stoic and aware, based on the disparity between their perceived risk of falling and their physiological risk.

While most study participants accurately perceived their risk of falling, one third “had disparities between their perceived and physiological fall risk,” according to researchers. Of the group deemed to have a low physiological risk of falling, a relatively high 39 percent of those placed in the “anxious” group actually did fall, suggesting their fear may have played a part in their falling.

The results of the study indicate that healthcare providers should inquire as to their patients’ fear of falling so that fall prevention efforts can be made for those stating that they are afraid.


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