Active older veterans fall more often than their more sedentary peers who never served in the armed forces, but they're less likely to injure themselves when they do, says a University of Michigan researcher.
A new study by Geoffrey Hoffman, U-M assistant professor of nursing, compared risks of noninjury falls and fall-related injuries in veterans and nonveteran populations, including whether risks differed according to physical activity and age. Historically, veterans are more physically active than nonveterans.
Using data from 11,841 veterans and 36,710 nonveterans in the 2006-2015 waves of the Health and Retirement Study at the U-M Institute for Social Research, the study found that veterans had 11% more noninjury falls but 28% fewer injurious falls than nonveterans.
The inference is that being active puts you at more risk for a fall, but if you are more active/in shape, the fall is more likely to be a minor one and not a serious one resulting in injury. A worthwhile trade-off, arguably." Geoffrey Hoffman, U-M assistant professor of nursing
While the risk of noninjury falls increased more with age for veterans than for nonveterans, physical activity was more protective against a noninjury fall for veterans. Hoffman said that because veterans are nearly 100% male, there's not enough data to definitively state if the findings apply to all physically active men, or just veterans.
This research is important because as people age, it's critical to find a good, healthy balance between physical activity and fall risk, Hoffman said.
"Personally, I'd rather not be the older adult who feels it's best to always sit on my couch because I'm too afraid of having a fall, so that when I do fall, it's really serious," he said.
Lack of physical activity carries both emotional and physiological health risks for older adults, including metabolic problems like diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, and social isolation and depression. Related Stories
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