The role of socio-economical status on stair fall risk in community older people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

   Faculty of Health

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  Prof G A Hutcheon  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This is one of two full-time PhD (via MPhil) studentships available, funded by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North West Coast.

The purpose of the NIHR ARC funding is to support applied Health Care, Social Care and/or Public Health research relevant to the needs of the diverse communities served by the NIHR ARC and its local health and care system and be implementable across the local region. The research will have wide applicability across health and care nationally, as well as within the local health and care system where it is conducted.

The supervisory teams have a broad range of expertise, and experience in successful supervision to PhD completion. Although we are currently advertising five potential projects from this funding, we will only be recruiting to two of them.

Stair falls in older people have dire consequences for the faller, their carers and the NHS. The inactivity enforced by home-confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant risk for overall health and particularly neuromuscular health, which is important for avoiding stair falls. The risk for a stair fall will be further increased with more frequent use of the stairs during home-confinement, especially if adopting a more careless behaviour on stairs, e.g., due to higher alcohol consumption. Stair fall risk may be particularly severe for older people with poorer socio-economically status, as these are more likely to have chronic diseases and poorer housing conditions. Documenting the extent to which a “stair falls pandemic” takes place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of socio-economical background is crucial for improving stair safety for older people in similar situations in the future.

To achieve this, we will:
(1) Document the incidence of home stair falls in older people of different socio-economical backgrounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
(2) Establish the circumstances under which the falls occurred, including the impact of housing-stock quality;
(3) Retrospectively, identify the stepping biomechanical parameters that can differentiate the fallers from the non-fallers.

Objectives (1) and (2) will be met through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews and home inspections, respectively, with people older than 65 y of different socio-economical backgrounds. To meet objective (3), participant subgroups of all backgrounds will participate in a laboratory experiment measuring stepping biomechanics on an instrumented staircase. The common biomechanical features of those who fell and those who did not will retrospectively be identified. In this way, any link between socio-economical status, stepping biomechanics and stair fall risk will be revealed, providing the basis for developing preventive measures against a future “stair falls pandemic”.

Please contact Professor Constantinos Maganaris for further information [Email Address Removed]

Fixed interview date - 11 December 2020

Funding Notes

The full-time studentships are tenable up to 3 years full-time (subject to satisfactory progress) and will cover the cost of tuition fees at Home/EU rates. A stipend in line with the UK Research Council is payable at £15285 per annum, and an additional allowance of up to £1000 per year will be paid for approved research costs.

Due to funding restrictions, the studentships are open to Home/EU applicants only. It is expected the successful applicant (s) will commence 1st February 2021.


Within their application, potential applicants must:
• Provide their CV
• Provide a cover letter that:
• states the title of the project they are applying for.
• includes a statement explaining why they would want to undertake postgraduate research in this specific area. Please contact the relevant supervisor for further details if required.
• demonstrates consideration of the HIAT toolkit for the proposed research project.

Applicants should have (or expect to have been formally awarded by 1st January 2021) at least a UK Bachelor honours degree at second class (upper division) level (or equivalent qualification) in a relevant discipline.

Applicants must have completed and been awarded any current course of study by the proposed start date (1st January 2021) otherwise they will not be shortlisted.

EU applicants require an English Language level of UKVI IELTS 6.5 (no sub-score less than 6.0) or acceptable equivalent qualification.

Further information

Completed applications consisting of a CV and cover letter should be returned by email to Prof. Gillian Hutcheon quoting the studentship reference number NIHRARC2