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Fear can increase risk of falls

Research has revealed that older people who have a fear of falling over have an increased risk of future falls.

The risks are overestimated or underestimated by around one in three older people, while most have a more accurate idea of the danger.

Data for 500 men and women between the ages of 70 and 90 were looked at by researches from Australia and Belgium.

The study, published online in the British Medical Journal, found that 30% of the people had suffered one or more falls in the last year.

It also revealed that 43% of those polled had one or more falls during the next year.

Analysis showed that among those who were fearful of falling over, even though there was a low physiological risk, almost 40% had several falls over the following year.

Meanwhile, around one in three people with little fear of falling actually fell over despite having a higher physiological risk of doing so.

The researchers believe a positive attitude among these "stoics", combined with regular exercise that increases strength, could work in their favour.

The authors said: "Excessive fear of falling can lead to needless restriction in participation in physical and social activities, resulting in physical deconditioning, poor quality of life, social isolation, depression, and psychological distress."

They said strategies aimed at reducing fear of falling - such as cognitive behavioural therapy - should be implemented for those who are anxious.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

British Medical Journal