Why young adults, especially women, are prone to falls on stairs

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Children under 3 and adults over 85 are the age groups most commonly injured from falling down stairs, but the third-most likely group is often overlooked, experts say: young adults in their 20s.

So in a study published Wednesday, a team of researchers at Purdue University focused on that cohort, analyzing particular behaviors that lead young adults to fall on stairs and how much those behaviors varied between men and women.

Using concealed cameras, the team recorded more than 2,400 students walking down short and long staircases on Purdue’s campus. They then measured eight risk behaviors associated with falls: footwear choice, handrail use, looking at one’s feet, using an electronic device, skipping steps, placing hands in pockets, talking while walking and carrying objects while walking. 

The results, released in the journal PLOS One, indicate that more than 69% of the subjects analyzed in the study exhibited two or more risky behaviors. Approximately 80% of women fell into this category, compared to about 62% of men. Women were also less likely to use a handrail and more likely to be carrying objects while walking, the study found.