Possible ‘serious consequences’ from giving up driving too soon
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.