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Fear of falling 'raises fall risk'

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Older people can increase their risk of falling the more they fear it, according to researchers from Australia and Belgium.

The research also concluded that one in three older people either underestimate or overestimate the risk.

The study looked at 500 files of 70-90 year olds and found that 149 of them (30%) had fallen at least once during the previous year. The following year it was noted that 214 (43%) had fallen at least once.

The researchers claim that of those who said they were afraid of falling, despite them having little risk of doing so, around four in 10 fell several times in the following year.

In addition, one in three who said they did not fear falling over, despite being physiologically more likely to, actually had a fall.

Regular exercise coupled with a positive attitude worked in people’s favour, the study showed.

The researchers, whose findings were published in the online version of the British Medical Journal, wrote: “Excessive fear of falling can lead to needless restriction in participation in physical and social activities, resulting in physical de-conditioning, poor quality of life, social isolation, depression and psychological distress.”

Cognitive behavioural therapy, for example, can help those who are anxious about falling, they added.

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