Elderly people who have fallen down and suffered an injury may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within the next few days, according to a new study published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry. The researchers found PTSD symptoms in 27 out of 100 people over age 65 who had been admitted to a hospital after a 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,” said 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.
The study, which involved elderly patients admitted to the hospital after a fall, measured 17 different symptoms of PTSD using the Post-Traumatic Stress Symptom Scale.
The researchers also gathered information about the patients’ background, marital status, previous mental health issues and current health conditions, and about their fall, including where they fell, how long it took to get help, and the location and severity of injuries.
Most of the patients had fallen in their home and received help within an hour. The most common injury was a fracture.
Women, people who were unemployed or who had less education, and those who had sustained injuries to the back or chest were more likely to report post-traumatic stress symptoms. PTSD symptoms were also associated with the number of other medical problems reported.
The most common PTSD symptoms were feeling distraught when reminded of the fall, a change in future hopes or plans, and problems falling or staying asleep.
“The finding that back or chest injuries, but not other types of injuries, were more likely to be associated with PTSD symptoms was surprising,” Jayasinghe said.
“Since patients were interviewed while still recuperating in the hospital, the PTSD symptoms they experienced are expected to lessen over time,” Jayasinghe said.
“I also hope that the report will encourage studies that explore whether symptoms in the hospital setting affect outcomes there, and to what extent there are long-term effects for patients. It remains to be seen if this association will hold when more study is conducted,” she added.
Source: Center for Advancing Health