The fear of falling puts seniors at an increased risk for future falls, regardless of their actual risk of tumbling, a new study finds.
Australian and Belgian researchers suggest that fall risk assessments should include measures of both actual and perceived fall risk for prevention purposes. Their study involved 500 elderly people in Sydney who underwent extensive medical and neuropsychological assessments. After estimating participants’ actual and perceived fall risks, researchers followed up on them monthly for one year.
The study authors concluded that both actual and perceived risks contribute independently to a person’s future risk of falling. People who are very anxious about falling are most likely to suffer a fall.
About one-third of the seniors overestimated or underestimated their risk of falling. The “anxious” group had a low actual fall risk but viewed it as high. The “stoic” group, however, had a high actual fall risk but viewed it as low. Researchers found that the low perceived risk actually helped protect this group against falls.
Working with elders to reduce their fear of falling isn’t likely to increase the risk of falls by making seniors overly confident, researchers said.
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