Characteristics of outdoor falls among older people: A qualitative study



Nyman SR, Ballinger C, Phillips J & Newton R (2013) Characteristics of outdoor falls among older people: A qualitative study. BMC Geriatrics, 13 (1), Art. No.: 125.

Background: Falls are a major threat to older people’s health and wellbeing. Approximately half of falls occur in outdoor environments but little is known about the circumstances in which they occur. We conducted a qualitative study to explore older people’s experiences of outdoor falls to develop understanding of how they may be prevented.  Methods: We conducted nine focus groups across the UK (England, Wales, and Scotland). Our sample was from urban and rural settings and different environmental landscapes. Participants were aged 65+ and had at least one outdoor fall in the past year. We analysed the data using framework and content analyses.  Results: Forty-four adults aged 65 – 92 took part and reported their experience of 88 outdoor falls. Outdoor falls occurred in a variety of contexts, though reports suggested the following scenarios may have been more frequent: when crossing a road, in a familiar area, when bystanders were around, and with an unreported or unknown attribution. Most frequently, falls resulted in either minor or moderate injury, feeling embarrassed at the time of the fall, and anxiety about falling again. Ten falls resulted in fracture, but no strong pattern emerged in regard to the contexts of these falls. Anxiety about falling again appeared more prevalent among those that fell in urban settings and who made more visits into their neighbourhood in a typical week.  Conclusions: This exploratory study has highlighted several aspects of the outdoor environment that may represent risk factors for outdoor falls and associated fear of falling. Health professionals are recommended to consider outdoor environments as well as the home setting when working to prevent falls and increase mobility among older people.

Accidental falls; Outdoors; Older people; Environment and public health; Fear of falls; Qualitative research

BMC Geriatrics: Volume 13, Issue 1

Publication date18/11/2013
Publication date online18/11/2013
Date accepted by journal12/11/2013
PublisherBioMed Central

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