New research shows that the risk of falls in elderly people increases dramatically when they have depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms, antidepressant use, poorer balance and poorer cognition all increase the risk of falls in the elderly and researchers set out to investigate the significance of these risk factors.
The study utilized data from 488 people aged 70 to 90 living in Sydney, Australia. Participants underwent psychological, cognitive and physiological assessments and were monitored for falls over the course of one year. Having any two risk factors increased the risk of a fall by 55 percent and in those with three to four risk factors, risk of a fall increased by 144 percent. The more risk factors a person has, the more likely they are to experience a fall.
This research suggests that therapies in the elderly to reduce the risk of falls should have a combination of physical exercise and psychological therapies such as mindfulness. Dr. Delbaere, a senior lecturer at UNSW, suggests that non-pharmacological approaches be considered while treating depressive symptoms, since antidepressants may increase the fall risk. Possible treatment options may include stress reduction and relaxation techniques.