Pos­si­ble ‘se­ri­ous con­se­quences’ from giv­ing up driv­ing too soon

Otago Daily Times - - DUNEDIN - JOHN GIBB john.gibb@odt.co.nz

IF older peo­ple give up driv­ing too soon, they can face pos­si­ble ‘‘se­ri­ous con­se­quences’’, in­clud­ing in­creased risk of iso­la­tion and de­pres­sion, Dr Re­becca Brook­land says.

‘‘We cer­tainly don’t want peo­ple stop­ping be­fore they need to,’’ she said.

Dr Brook­land, of the Univer­sity of Otago, who is the over­all prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the re­search, was com­ment­ing on the find­ings of a re­cently re­leased na­tional sur­vey of anx­i­ety among older driv­ers.

This shows about 38% of the 1170 driv­ers aged 65 and over who were sur­veyed had ei­ther mild (27%) or more mod­er­ate to se­vere anx­i­ety (10.7%) about driv­ing.

Nearly half the women (47.2%) re­ported some driv­ing anx­i­ety, com­pared with 28.4% of the men.

The study, in­volv­ing re­searchers from Otago, Massey and Auckland uni­ver­si­ties, found 62.3% of those sur­veyed re­ported no driv­ing anx­i­ety.

More re­search was needed, and it was im­por­tant to learn more about older peo­ple’s driv­ing habits, given New Zealand’s age­ing pop­u­la­tion and more peo­ple were liv­ing in their own homes, she said.

But most cur­rent re­search on driv­ing was fo­cused on young adults and ‘‘very lit­tle’’ was known about older driv­ers.

This was ‘‘par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant’’ be­cause driv­ing anx­i­ety could con­trib­ute to peo­ple giv­ing up driv­ing pre­ma­turely.

Ceas­ing to drive, with its as­so­ci­ated loss of in­de­pen­dent mo­bil­ity, could have ‘‘se­ri­ous con­se­quences for older peo­ple, in­clud­ing de­pres­sion, so­cial iso­la­tion, func­tional and health de­cline, in­sti­tu­tion­al­i­sa­tion and early death’’.

There was a grow­ing trend for New Zealan­ders to drive suc­cess­ fully at much older ages, and driv­ing pro­vided im­por­tant qual­ity of life ben­e­fits, she said.

Dr Joanne Tay­lor, a Massey Univer­sity se­nior lec­turer in psy­chol­ogy, was the lead au­thor in the sur­vey­re­lated study, pub­lished in a lead­ing geri­atrics jour­nal, Ma­tu­ri­tas.

The Health Re­search Coun­cil­funded study showed that the num­ber of driv­ers aged 65 and over re­port­ing driv­ing anx­i­ety was higher than that of driv­ers aged 55 to 72, who were the sub­ject of pre­vi­ous New Zealand re­search, Dr Tay­lor said.

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