Why Are Women College Students More Likely Than Their Male Peers to Fall on Stairs?

A new study led by scholars at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, presents somewhat surprising results, showing that young adult women are among the most likely to suffer injuries from falling on stairs. While people over 85 and young children under the age of 3 are the most likely to suffer injuries from falling on stairs, the next likely group is young men and women in their 20s. And in this age group, 80 percent of the injuries occur among women.

In order to find out why this is so, researchers observed young adult pedestrians on two indoor staircases at a large university. One two-step staircase and a long staircase with 17 steps to see what behaviors may result in high injury rates, particularly for women. Women wearing high heels, the researchers found, contributed to their higher rate of injury but were not a major factor.

Risky behaviors observed on the staircases included not using the handrail, using an electronic device, and having in-person conversations. On the long staircase: 65 percent of pedestrians did not use the handrail, 12 percent used an electronic device, and 14.5 percent had in-person conversations. Risky behaviors observed more in women included: less likely to use the handrail, more likely to carry an item in their hands, and more likely to engage in conversation. These conversations – either in-person or on the phone – may detract women from paying attention to the stairs. In addition, women were more likely to wear sandals or heels.

The full study, “Risky Behavior During Stair Descent for Young Adults: Differences in Men Versus Women,” was published on PLOS ONE. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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