Some 110,000 more older people are projected to have at least one fall per year as a result of reduced strength and balance activity during the coronavirus pandemic – up 3.9 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.
The coronavirus lockdown last year had a significant impact on the activity levels of people aged 65 and over, says a report from Public Health England on the wider impacts of Covid-19 on physical activity.
The report found that 32 per cent of older people did either no activity or less than 30 minutes of moderate activity per week between March to May 2020. This is a 27 per cent increase over the corresponding period in 2019.
Additionally, the average duration of strength and balance activity decreased from 126 to 77 minutes per week compared to the corresponding period in 2019. The greatest change was in the 70-74 age group with a 45 per cent (male) and 49 per cent (female) decrease observed in activity.
The total number of falls among older people could increase by 124,000 for males (an increase of 6.3 per cent) and 130,000 for females (an increase of 4.4 per cent) as a consequence, the report predicts.
For each year that the lower levels of strength and balance activity seen during the pandemic persist, there is projected to be an additional cost to the health and social care system of £211 million (incurred over a 2.5 year period).
The wider impacts of Covid-19 are the indirect effects of the disease on population health, which do not result from Covid infection, but rather from the measures put in place to limit its spread. These wider impacts include mental health, access to services, employment, and changes in health behaviours (smoking, diet, alcohol consumption, and physical activity)
Access to healthcare has been reduced during the pandemic, with some services not running, and others running at reduced capacity. Many people were unwilling to seek healthcare and around 50 per cent of older adults with a worsening healthcare condition have not sought medical advice about it during the pandemic, the report says.