The findings of a new study highlight the serious problems that result from ladder falls, which often extend far beyond physical injuries, resulting in long-lasting mental health issues as well.
Australian researchers indicate that more than half of people who fall from ladders suffer injuries that impact their physical, mental and emotional well-being for more than six months after the incident, according to a report published last week in the medical journal PLOS One. It is the world’s first study of long-term impacts from ladder falls.
Researchers conducted a prospective observational study of 134 adult patients with ladder-related injuries who presented to two emergency rooms in southeast Queensland, Australia, from 2015 to 2016. Participant interviews took place at the time of ER admittance or shortly after, with followup telephone interviews at six-months.
Patients spent an average of five days in the hospital, with the most common injuries including spinal fractures, rib fractures, tibia or fibula fractures, radius or ulna fractures, pelvic fractures and traumatic pneumothorax. Impacts of the injuries were assessed at six-months using the quality of life AQoL 4D Basic Instrument.
According to the findings, more than half of people who suffered ladder falls experienced deterioration in their psychological well-being for at least six-months after the incident. Nearly 40% of patients reported a clinically significant deterioration in their psychological well-being. Roughly 20% said they experienced a significant deterioration in their social relationships and nearly 20% of patients reported a significant deterioration in their independence.
Overall, patients reported nine out of 12 items of the quality of life measure deteriorated after suffering a fall injury. Patients reported no change in two items, vision and hearing and reported improvement in one area, communication.
The largest changes were reported with sleeping, anxiety, worry, depression, and pain. More than 25% of patients reported changes in these areas, indicating they worried more, had disturbed sleep and suffered from depression.
Nearly 50% of patients reported a significant deterioration across the global AQoL dimension measures overall.
Research indicates males over 55 years of age are particularly at risk. They make up more than half of all ladder-related fall cases and most injuries occurred during home maintenance.
More than 80% of patients required at least four weeks off work after suffering a fall and 16% of patients were unable to return to work or perform their normal functions after six months.
Researches emphasize mandated safety instructions for ladders and safety features like rubber feet, hooks, extender arms, fasteners and stabilizers can help prevent these injuries.
“Injuries related to falls from ladders continue to have a profound impact on patients at six-months post-injury as measured using the AQoL instrument,” the researchers wrote. “This adds to previous research which has demonstrated considerable morbidity and mortality at the time of injury.”