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Bigger fall risk for obese people over 65

Published on 19 February 2014 02:00 PM

Obese people over the age of 65 are 31% more likely to suffer a fall than those of a healthy weight, new research from Australia has suggested.

'Falls are one of the most common causes of injury for older individuals and as the world population ages, the number of fall-related injuries is projected to increase rapidly,' said Rebecca Mitchell, lead author and researcher with Neuroscience Research Australia at the University of New South Wales.

Rates of obesity among older people are also increasing, she added.


Mitchell and her colleagues wanted to study whether obese and overweight people were at a greater risk of falling than other older adults, as well as determining the injury risk associated with a fall.

The researchers used information published in the New South Wales Prevention Baseline Survey, a large Australian population study, which began in 2009.

A total of 5,681 people aged 65 and over were questioned about their history of falling, their own perceived risk of falling, their general health status, their medication use and activity levels.

Those who had fallen at least once in the past year as a result of accidentally losing their balance, tripping or slipping were also questioned about any injuries sustained in the falls, and whether those injuries required medical attention or hospital admission.

Obese people at higher risk of falling

The results, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, found that 23% of respondents with healthy weight levels had fallen once in the past year and 34% had fallen more than once.

However, 30% of obese people had reported that they fell once in the past 12 months while 45% had fallen more than once.

Obese patients did not have a higher risk of fall-related injuries, but they were more likely to have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Obese people who fell were also more likely to be taking a cocktail of 4 or more prescription medications.

'It is difficult to know for certain why the risk of falling increases for obese individuals, but it is likely to be as a result of reduced peripheral sensation, general physical weakness and instability when standing or walking,' Mitchell said.

Copyright Press Association 2014

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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