Older persons' perception of risk of falling: implications for fall-prevention campaigns

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Hughes, K, van Beurden, E, Eakin, EG, Barnett, LM, Patterson, E, Backhouse, J, Jones, S, Hauser, D, Beard, JR & Newman, B 2008, 'Older persons' perception of risk of falling: implications for fall-prevention campaigns', American Journal of Public Health, vol. 98, no. 2, pp. 351-357.

Publisher version of this article is available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2007.115055

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Objectives. We examined older people’s attitudes about falls and implications for the design of fall-prevention awareness campaigns.

Methods. We assessed data from (1) computer-assisted telephone surveys conducted in 2002 with Australians 60 years and older in Northern Rivers, New South Wales (site of a previous fall-prevention program; n=1601), and Wide Bay, Queensland (comparison community; n=1601), and (2) 8 focus groups (n=73).

Results. Participants from the previous intervention site were less likely than were comparison participants to agree that falls are not preventable (odds ratio [OR]=0.76; 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.65, 0.90) and more likely to rate the prevention of falls a high priority (OR=1.31; 95% CI=1.09, 1.57). There was no difference between the groups for self-perceived risk of falls; more than 60% rated their risk as low. Those with a low perceived risk were more likely to be men, younger, partnered, and privately insured, and to report better health and no history of falls. Focus group data indicated that older people preferred messages that emphasized health and independence rather than falls.

Conclusions. Although older people accepted traditional fall-prevention messages, most viewed them as not personally relevant. Messages that promote health and independence may be more effective.

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