What is the Evidence of the Experience of Having a Fall across the Life Course? A Qualitative Synthesis

Cathy Bailey, Diana Jones, Deborah Goodall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Alleviating the economic and human impacts of falls and fear of falling are critical health and social care issues. Despite some proven effectiveness of a number of falls prevention intervention programmes, uptake remains low and attrition high. There is a need for greater understanding of social, cultural and individual, life course positioning of falling, actual or perceived. Objective: To address the question: what is the evidence of the experience of having a fall across the life course? Method: A qualitative evidence synthesis with key electronic databases searched from 1990-2011 using terms related to the experience of falls and falling. Selected papers presented data from the perspective of the person who had fallen. Synthesis included collaborative coding of ‘incidents’ related to falling, theoretical sampling of studies to challenge emerging theories, and constant comparison of categories to generate explanations. Results: The initial focus was to access and assess the evidence for the experiences of a fall across the life course but the authors’ systematic search revealed that the vast majority of the published literature focuses on the experience of a fall in later life. Only 2 of the 16 studies included, provided perspectives of falling from a life stage other than that of older adults. However older adults’ perceptions of their falls experiences are likely to be influenced by lifelong attitudes and beliefs about falling and older age. Synthesis identified that a falls incident or fear of falling induces explicit or implicit ‘Fear’. Consequences are related to notions of ‘Control’ and ‘Social standing’. Recovery work involves ‘Adaptation’, ‘Implications’ ‘Social standing’ and ‘Control’. ‘Explanation’ is sought. Conclusions: How and why people make sense of falling across the life course should have positive impacts on developing falls intervention programmes that people will want to engage with and adhere to.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-284
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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