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Optimism linked to lower risk of falls

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A positive, optimistic attitude is associated with a reduced risk of falls and fractures, while a cynical and hostile attitude is associated with an increased risk, according to a recent study.

Dr Jane A. Cauley from the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues examined data on 87,342 women to test the hypothesis that personality influences falls and fracture risk.

Results published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research show that women with the highest optimism scores were 11% less likely to report two or more falls in the past year. Women in the highest quartile for hostility had a 12% greater risk of having two or more falls.

Higher optimism scores were also associated with a 10% lower risk of fractures, but this association was attenuated after multivariable adjustment.

Women with the greatest hostility had a slightly increased risk of fracture. There was no association with specific fracture sites.

“Optimism was independently associated with a decreased risk of ≥2 falls, and hostility with an increased risk of ≥2 falls, independent of traditional risk factors,” the researchers concluded. “The magnitude of the association was similar to ageing five years. Whether interventions aimed at attitudes could reduce fall risks remains to be determined.”

Commenting on the study, Terence O´Neill, Professor of Rheumatology and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Manchester, told the National Osteoporosis Society that it had presented an interesting finding.

“Personality traits including optimism (expecting good things to happen) and hostility (mistrust of people) have been linked to other diseases including heart disease, though have not previously been studied in relation to the risk of falls or fractures,” O´Neill said.

“It is likely that lifestyle and other factors linked with these personality traits, such as levels of physical activity, medications, risk taking behaviour or fear of falling, could explain the increased fall risk, though further research would be needed to look at this.

“Such data would be valuable; a better understanding of how personality traits impact on falls could potentially help in the development of targeted prevention programmes.”