Published: 2019-10-08 10:09 | Updated: 2019-10-08 10:51

New thesis: Predictors and consequences of injurious falls among older adults : a holistic approach

Hi Stina Ek, PhD-student at the Division of Aging Research Center. On October 25th you will defend your thesis ”Predictors and consequences of injurious falls among older adults : a holistic approach”, what's the main focus of the thesis?

Portrait of Stina Ek, NVS
Stina Ek.

My thesis is about falls among older adults, and specifically about enabling early detection of older individuals at risk of injurious falls or at risk of adverse health outcomes after an injurious fall.

Which are the most important results?

We found that risk factors for falls tend to cluster within individuals at risk of falls, suggesting that it might be more appropriate to study fall risk profiles, rather than risk factors for falls in isolation. We also found that fall risk profiles differ between women and men, these differences need to be considered when screening for fall risk and planning preventive actions, although the mechanisms behind it needs to be further studied.

We also developed a screening tool for first time fallers, to be used in primary care or for public health use, to enable early detection of individuals at risk and to implement primary prevention. Our screening tool is easy and quick to use and predicts first time fallers well, it is now being further tested for validity, reliability and feasibility.

Last, we found that sociodemographic and health related factors (living alone, being physically inactive and rating one’s health as poor), measured before an injurious fall, can mediate the long-term level of disability after the fall.  

How can this new knowledge contribute to the improvement of people’s health?

We hope that our screening tool can find more individuals at risk of falls, in an early stage, before they start falling. In this way we can implement primary prevention interventions alongside with secondary prevention for fallers. We also hope that our findings about mediating factors for developing disability after an injurious fall can help the health care system to target the most vulnerable individuals, which need more monitoring and rehabilitation after an injurious fall, to maintain independence and a high quality of life. Since falls among older adults is such a major public health concern, the focus needs to be more towards primary prevention, to avoid suffering for the individuals and also to save money spent on health care.

What´s in the future for you? Will you keep on conducting research?

I will continue with a PostDoc position at another department at Karolinska Institutet. The topic will be similar but will also present opportunities for me to extend and deepen my knowledge within geriatric epidemiology.