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Lewis McColl

Host university: Newcastle University

PhD research project: Is Fear of Falling key to identifying gait and balance abnormalities in community dwelling older adults? A mixed methods approach.

Project summary: Around a third of community dwelling adults over the age of 65 fall each year, with around half experiencing more than one fall per year. Falls are often linked with poor gait and balance, along with a lack of strength. Fear of falling has been reported to have a higher prevalence in women than men, and is more common as people get older.

Measuring fear of falling has been found to predict whether someone will fall, along with worse physical performance. Fear of falling has been shown to improve if a person exercises or is more active. One of the ways to measure whether a person is afraid of falling is the Falls Efficacy Scale International version (FES-I), which has been used a lot in research and in medical clinics.

The FES-I has been linked to poor gait and balance, but its predictive capabilities have not been tested. Correctly predicting poor gait and balance with an easy-to-use questionnaire like FES-I has the potential to reduce the cost of falls on the NHS, which currently costs £4.8 billion per year. The questionnaire could also be used as a screening tool, which could let them get help to become stronger.  Correctly predicting who is at risk of falling to give them the help they need to become stronger is important to reduce this cost.

Our aim is to see if the FES-I can predict gait and balance, and whether it can be used to track falls over a 6-month period.

Expected PhD completion date: September 2024

Contact: [email protected]