Older Adults Who Have Had Serious Falls Display Symptoms of PTSD

First Posted: Sep 13, 2014 05:05 AM EDT

Many older adults might develop post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing a serious fall.

Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events like injury, warfare or sexual assault. This debilitating mental disorder occurs with symptoms like bad dreams, scary thoughts, trouble remembering events, feeling of guilt, depression or worry. It is estimated that 7.7 million American adults are affected with PTSD. The condition that mostly affects women can occur at any age including childhood.

In the latest study, conducted by the Health Behaviour News Service, it was revealed that older adults who have experience a serious fall might develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after the event. They based their finding on the evaluation of the symptoms linked with PTSD in 27 out of 100 people aged 65 years, who were admitted at the hospital after the fall.

"Anyone who goes through an accident in which they feel their life may be in danger or they could get physically harmed can develop post-traumatic stress symptoms," noted lead author Nimali Jayasinghe, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

In this study, the patients were recruited during their stay in the hospital and were assessed using the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome Scale that measured the 17 symptoms of PTSD. Data about their background, marital status, previous mental health issues and existing health conditions, details about their fall including where they fell was taken into consideration. They also gathered information of the duration it took them to seek help, location and severity of the injuries. They noticed that majority of the older patients had fallen in their home and got help within an hour.  Fracture was the most common injury sited.

They also observed that unemployed women or women with less education were more vulnerable to report PTSD symptoms and were also linked with several other medical conditions. The most common PTSD symptom reported was feeling emotionally upset when reminded of the fall, change in future hopes or plans and trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. It was the injuries to back or chest that was highly linked with PTSD symptoms.

The finding was documented in the General Hospital Psychiatry.

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