Falls a part of middle-aged, study shows

Traps, traditionally associated with old age, are a feature of middle age, especially among women, has found new research.

A study of the prevalence of fall incidents in middle-aged adults (40-64 years) in four countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and Ireland, found for women, the prevalence of falls rises from the age of 40 onwards – 9% in 40-44 year-olds, 21% in 50-54 year-olds and up to 30% in ages 60-64 years.

Although exact causes of fall incidents are not identified in the study, the authors say that the timing of increases in falls coincides with the onset of menopause, deterioration in balance performance and an increase in the presence of dizziness and fainting.

An earlier study by the same researchers found that several factors were associated with falling into the early, middle and later midlife. For example, high levels of alcohol intake and hearing problems were significant predictors of falls at ages 59-67.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) have used data from TILDA (the Irish longitudinal study on aging) and from comparable studies in Australia, the UK and the Netherlands, which have processed data from more than 19,000 adults.

The authors said the findings indicate "that middle age can be a critical stage of life for interventions to prevent falls".

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, senior author on paper and director of TILDA and of the Falls Unit at St James Hospital, said their work "emphasizes the importance of early prevention strategies".

"Although falls can cause serious injuries and lead to invalidity, they also create fear of further falls, which is a well-known phenomenon, and TILDA research shows that one in four people over 50 is present.

"People who have a trap or a fall have the greatest risk of falling and should be focused on strength and balance programs and drug reviews – both strategies significantly reduce the fall."

A digital copy of the paper is available here.

Dr Ciara Kelly discusses this topic Friday in Feelgood

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