The Connection Between Stress and Falls in Older Men

by Hilary Young on June 11, 2018

The Connection Between Stress and Falls in Older Men

Stress can lead to significant health problems, regardless of your age. Stress has been linked to a variety of long-term health complications, including high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack, migraines or recurring headaches, anxiety, depression, and weight gain. Research now shows that older men, in particular, are also more likely to have a higher fall risk when they experience a lot of stress.

Older men have a significantly higher fall risk and injury following a stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one, serious financial trouble, moving away from their primary residence, or loss of a pet.

Stress, Older Men, and Fall Risk

A research study conducted by Dr. Howard Fink and a team of his colleagues at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, examined about 5,000 men over the age of 65 from locations across the U.S. As part of the study, the men participated in two interviews about their lives throughout the course of a year. In the first interview, the men were asked if they had recently experienced any of the following:

  • Death, serious illness or accident of wife/partner

  • Death of other close relative or close friend

  • Separation from a child, close friend or other relatives who provided the men with help

  • Loss of a pet

  • Serious financial difficulties

  • Moving or changing residence

  • Giving up important hobbies or interests

The second interview was conducted a year later and the researchers found that 27.7 percent of the men had fallen and 14.7 percent had fallen multiple times. Falls were reported by nearly 30 percent of men with one stressful event, 35.5 percent of those with two stressful events, and just under 40 percent of those with three or more stressful events.

After adjusting for age, the researchers determined that any stressful life event for men over the age of 65 can be associated with a 41 percent increase in fall risk.

Causes Of Falls From Stress

While they do not yet have the science to back it up, the researchers have hypothesized that stress might cause falls for several reasons

  • Stress causes a hormonal response in the body, which can trigger falls and other negative health effects.
  • Inflammation, a physical side effect of stress, leads to muscle loss and reduced physical abilities.
  • The intense emotional response to negative life events could impact balance or visual attention, leading to a fall.

“Further studies are needed to confirm our findings and to investigate the mechanism underlying this association,” said Dr. Fink. “Additional studies may explore whether clinical screening of older men with recent stressful life events for fall reduction interventions will reduce falls.”

Fall Prevention For Seniors

There are many reasons why people experience falls as they age. Thinking about fall prevention for seniors could end up saving a life, especially with the knowledge that men over the age of 65 who have experienced significant stress are subject to a higher fall risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 7 million falls experienced by older adults cause a trip to the emergency room. It’s also been proven, however, that 90 percent of older adults who are able to receive treatment within one hour of their fall are able to return home, relatively unscathed.

Investing in a Medical Guardian medical alert system is an ideal way to put a fall prevention plan in place. Although a medical alert device cannot stop you from falling, it can mitigate the damage by connecting you to immediate help within moments of your fall.


TAGS: fall prevention for seniors fall risk causes of falls medical guardian medical alert system