Older adults who only walk on errands have higher fall risk

Older adults who only walk for errands of necessity have a higher risk of falling compared with adults who walk recreationally, according to results of a recently published study.

Researchers analyzed data on walking habits, falls and fall injuries among 765 community-dwelling participants of MOBILIZE Boston. Researchers assessed neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) indicators at census block group level, while falls were recorded from September 2005 to December 2009. The median length of follow-up was 2.9 years.

Study results showed a higher association between lower neighborhood SES indicators, more errand walking and higher rates of falls on sidewalks, streets and curbs. Compared with falls in recreational areas, adults who fell on sidewalks and streets had a higher risk of injury, according to study results. Researchers also found participants who only walked for errands tended to live in neighborhoods with the lowest neighborhood SES. They also had the highest rate of outdoor falls, even though research showed they walked 14 fewer blocks than recreational-only walkers and 25 fewer blocks than dual walkers.

“Older adults have two times the risk of falling while walking out of necessity than walking for recreation, and four times greater risk of injury from a fall on the sidewalk than in a recreational area,” Wenjun Li, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, stated in a press release. “Improving the safety of walking environments in areas where older adults shop and do other errands of necessity is an important component of fall prevention.”

For more information:

Li W. Am J Public Health. 2014;doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302104.

Disclosure: The researchers have no relevant financial disclosures.

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