Congregate living may have a positive effect on fall risk, a new study finds. Seniors living alone with little social contact are much more likely to report hospital admission due to a fall than their peers who live with others, investigators say. 

Image of Daisy Fancourt, Ph.D.
Daisy Fancourt, Ph.D.

The researchers followed self-reported data on falls and admission records for more than 13,000 participants aged 60 and older. More than 50% of participants reported a fall within a 14-year study period, and 9% were hospitalized during that time, reported Daisy Fancourt, Ph.D., of University College London, in England.

Seniors living alone had an 18% higher risk of falling than those living with a friend or relative. And study participants who were the most isolated were 24% more likely to report a fall and up to 46% more likely to be admitted to a hospital after a fall than those with the most social contact. The findings were independent of socio-economic, health and lifestyle factors, the researchers said.

Living with others and having frequent social interactions may alleviate stress and offer opportunities for others to recognize fall risks, Fancourt and colleagues wrote. There is compelling evidence, for example, that shows that social relationships increase access to healthcare and patient compliance with medications and therapies, “which may further contribute to reducing the risk of falls,” they explained.  

The results are particularly relevant to the COVID-19 era, the investigators concluded. “Whilst this study uses data collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic … there is likely a heightened risk of loneliness and social isolation due to lockdown and social distancing measures,” they concluded.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.