The Effects of Age on Stress and The Biomechanics of Slips and Falls

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Date

2002-08-15

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Virginia Tech

Abstract

Research has shown that older adults who have experienced a previous fall are 60-70% more likely to suffer future falls. A study was conducted to investigate if stress and anxiety associated with a fear of falling contributes to the increased incidents of falls among older adults. The investigation compared physiological parameters, with biomechanical parameters of walking for twenty-eight participants in two age groups: (18-35) and (65 or older). Both age groups were evaluated while walking over dry and slippery floor surfaces. Biomechanical parameters included: step length, required coefficient of friction (RCOF), slip distance, and heel contact velocity. Physiological parameters included: stress and anxiety.

Overall, the results indicated that there were differences between older and younger adult's biomechanical parameters of walking, and their physiological stress and anxiety associated with an inadvertent slip. Younger adult's normal RCOF was higher and their normal step length was longer compared to older adults. Older adult's stress level after a slip was significantly higher than younger adults. However, younger and older adult's anxiety scores were not significantly different. Furthermore, younger and older adults modified their step length differently to avoid slipping, when walking over the slippery floor surface. It was concluded that some anxiety and stress may be beneficial in reducing the occurrence of inadvertent slips and falls due to an increased awareness of one's external environment.

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Heel Contact Velocity, Stress, Required Coefficient of Friction, Anxiety, Step Length

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