-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Older men have a
significantly increased risk of falling in the year after they go
through a stressful life event such as the death of a loved one or
serious money problems, new research shows.
The study included nearly 5,000 men older than 65 at six
locations in the United States. They were asked if they had
experienced any of the following stressful incidents: death,
serious illness or accident of wife/partner; death of other close
relative or close friend; separation from child, close friend or
other relative who provided the men with help; loss of a pet;
serious financial difficulties; moving or changing residence; or
giving up important hobbies or interests.
In the year after being interviewed, 27.7 percent of the men
fell and 14.7 percent fell multiple times. Falls were reported by
nearly 30 percent of men with one stressful event, 35.5 percent of
those with two stressful events, and just under 40 percent of those
with three or more stressful events.
After adjusting for age, the researchers concluded that any
stressful life event was associated with a 41 percent increased
risk of falling and a nearly twofold increased risk of multiple
falls in the following year. There was no statistically significant
increase in fracture risk, according to the study published online
Sept. 3 in the journal
Age and Ageing.
"To my knowledge, this is the first prospective study to examine the independent association between stressful life events and the risk of falls in community-dwelling older men. We believe it provides the strongest evidence to date supporting stressful life events as a risk factor for falls. However, the mechanism connecting stressful life events to falls is uncertain," study author Dr. Howard Fink, of the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, said in a journal news release.
He and his colleagues said there are a number of possible
reasons why stressful life events can increase the risk of falls.
For example, sudden emotions triggered by such events could impair
balance or visual attention, resulting in a fall. Or inflammation
-- a potential indicator of physical stress -- could lead to a loss
of muscle mass and reduced physical abilities.
"Further studies are needed to confirm our findings and to investigate the mechanism underlying this association. Additional studies may explore whether clinical screening of older men with recent stressful life events for fall reduction interventions will reduce falls," Fink said.
Although the study showed an association between stressful life
events and risk of falls among older men, it did not prove a
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and
Skin Diseases offers
fall prevention tips.
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