Living alone or being socially isolated can increase the risk of falling for older people, British researchers report.
Their study included data on 4,013 men and women, most of them over the age of 60, who said they had fallen, and 9,285 men who were hospitalized after falling, in scientific reports. Scientists used well-validated questionnaires to assign each participant a score on a social isolation scale from zero to six, with six indicating the least social contact. They were also rated on a similar scale to measure how lonely they felt.
Adjusted for socio-economic, health, and lifestyle factors, they found that people who lived alone were 18 percent more likely to report falls than people who lived with others and those who scored six on the social isolation scale 24 percent more likely to fall than those with a zero score. Results on the loneliness test were not associated with falls after adjusting for social isolation and other variables.
The risk of falls leading to hospitalizations was 23 percent higher in people living alone and 36 percent higher in people with the least social contact than in people with most.
"The key message is that older people who are socially isolated are at greater risk of falling," said lead author Feifei Bu, senior research fellow at University College London. "We encourage people to take more care of them, help with daily activities, keep in touch, and so on."