Watch Your Steps: Study Finds Sex, Medication And Physical Activity Affect Frequency Of Falls

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – New research from the Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences finds that young adults’ gender, number of prescription drugs, and amount of physical activity have a significant effect on their falling patterns, which have already done the trick. subject of few studies. .

Posted in PLOS ONE, observational study by Shirley Rietdyk, professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology, examined the frequency and circumstances of undergraduate student falls.

She found that men were more likely to report falls while women were more likely to trip without falling. She also found that higher levels of physical activity in young adults, such as walking or playing sports, increased the likelihood of falling – whereas in older adults, more physical activity generally protects against falls. However, in a pattern similar to that of older adults, more prescription drugs resulted in more falls in young adults.

Falls are a leading cause of injury at nearly all ages in the United States, according to non-fatal injury data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and these findings provide opportunities for more research to investigate. the causes of these events.

This could lead to the development of interventions, such as teaching individuals to take environmental cues into account rather than social cues when walking. These can be implemented throughout life before a significant balance problem occurs.

“If you talk to older adults, a number of them self-identify as frequent fellers, but then they tell me that they also fell a lot when they were younger,” Rietdyk said. “This piece really interests me. Is there some sort of underlying mechanism that predisposes someone to fall and that continues throughout their life? “

Over the course of 16 weeks, study participants were asked to respond to a daily email and respond if they had slipped, tripped, or fallen in the past 24 hours. If they answered yes, further questions about the circumstances of the incident were asked.

Shirley Rietdyk, professor of health and kinesiology in the College of Health and Humanities at Purdue University, studies falls and biomechanics in young adults. (Photo provided) Download image

Rietdyk has been studying balance and mobility in the elderly since the 1980s, but only began her research in young adults in recent years. She began to notice the importance of falls in young adults when a number of her students shared stories of where they had fallen.

“When people find out that you study the falls, they have a fall story to share – their grandmother fell and broke her hip, or their wife was gardening and fell, or they tell their own stories of the falls. ‘fall,’ said Rietdyk. “What I noticed was undergraduates telling me about their falls, and I thought it was unusual.

In the study, Rietdyk found that several participants experienced nine or more falls in a semester – about two falls per month – and that all of those participants were college students.

This research goes beyond the initial pilot study conducted by Rietdyk and his team in 2016, which found that young adults fall more frequently than they expected. The recent study increased the number of participants from 94 undergraduates to 343, which gave the researchers enough data to support their earlier findings and surpass them to compare the declining trends of young women to young men. .

“Since we published our first article in 2016, other authors using different approaches demonstrate parallel observations: Falls are not a trivial problem for young adults,” said Rietdyk.

The study included factors such as alcohol use and texting, which many people believe cause students to fall, Rietdyk said. Although substance use contributed to several falls – about 11% – very few falls were the result of texting. Rietdyk noted that people often walk more slowly during this activity and are therefore better equipped to recover. The few drops that occurred while texting were usually on the stairs, requiring more environmental attention for foot placement.

However, even taking into account falls with these causes, over 80% of falls were not caused by these factors, possibly indicating that something bigger was involved.

Based on the results of this study, Rietdyk said, she is interested in delving deeper into the difference between women and men related to falls, noting that while research can identify what is happening in young adults, it can inform this. happening in older adults and potentially offer solutions to improve overall balance and reduce the number of falls.

The paper was co-authored by Bruce A. Craig, professor of statistics at Purdue University, and Purdue alumni HyeYoung Cho and Michel JH Heijnen.

About Purdue University

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Editor, media contact: Rebecca Hoffa, [email protected]

Source: Shirley Rietdyk, [email protected]

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Falls in Young Adults: The Effect of Sex, Physical Activity, and Prescription Drugs

HyeYoung Cho, Michel JH Heijnen, Bruce A. Craig, Shirley Rietdyk


Falls are a major public health concern not only for older adults, but also for young adults, with fall-related injuries occurring more frequently in adult women than in men. However, the gender differences in the frequency and circumstances of falls in young adults are under-studied. This research quantified the frequency and circumstances of falls based on gender, physical activity, and prescription drugs in young adults. For 16 weeks, young adult participants (N = 325; 89 males; 19.9 ± 1.1 years) responded to a daily email asking if they had slipped, tripped, or fallen in the past 24 hours . Falls and fall-related injuries were not uncommon among young adults: 48% fell at least once, 25% fell more than once, and 10% reported an injury. The most common activities at the time of the fall for women were walking (44%) and sports (33%), and for men, sports (49%) and walking (37%). A Poisson model inflated to zero found that a higher number of falls was associated with the following: higher levels of physical activity (p = 0.025), higher number of medications (p

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