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Sex, physical activity, medications linked to falls in young adults

03 May 2021

Among young adults, medications taken, sex, and physical activity levels all affect the risk of falls, a recent study suggests.

Through daily emails, 325 young adults (mean age 19.9±1.1 years, 89 men) were asked if they had slipped, tripped, or fallen in the last 24 hours. An initial questionnaire was also administered at enrolment to determine demographic information, along with number of prescription medications and physical activity level. The survey lasted for 16 weeks.

A total of 405 falls were reported by 157 participants (48 percent). Falls occurred more than twice as frequently in women than in men (290 vs 115). Eighty-one participants also noted that they fell more than once over the 16 weeks of surveys, while 34 and 21 said that they had fallen two or more than two times in one day, respectively.

Poisson analysis confirmed that sex was a significant factor associated with fall frequency (p=0.008), though the model found that this was more likely in men. Keeping other relevant factors fixed, men recorded 38-percent more falls than women.

Physical activity, measured according to the Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire (LTEQ), was also significantly associated with falls (p=0.025). In particular, each 10-point increase in the LTEQ correlated with a 4-percent increase in the number of falls. Ten points on the LTEQ could correspond to 15 more minutes of strenuous exercise per week, 30 minutes of moderate exercise, or 45 minutes of light exercise.

Prescription medications also affected fall frequency (p<0.0001), such that those on 0–1 medication saw a 23-percent increase in the number of falls. Participants on 1–2, 2–3, or 3–4 medications had a corresponding increase of 21 percent, 19 percent, and 16 percent.

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