Finding meaning after the fall: injury narratives from elderly hip fracture patients

Soc Sci Med. 1991;33(8):947-57. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(91)90265-e.


Hip fractures occur frequently among the elderly, often with severe medical, psychological and social repercussions. This research takes a new look at hip fracture rehabilitation, focusing on meanings and post-fracture prognostic indicators. An innovative methodological approach to narrative analysis is employed which combines ethnographic and epidemiologic techniques. Analyses of injury narratives from 80 elderly subjects interviewed soon after initial hospitalization are presented, focusing on three categories of meaning: explanatory models, sense of disability, and futurity. Insights from these narratives, as well as from questionnaires and observations, shed light on the experience of hip fracture for the elderly. In addition, aspects of the initial narratives are considered in relation to ambulation outcomes at 3 and 6 months. Those individuals who perceive their problem in a more external or mechanical fashion (caused by the environment) show greater improvement in ambulation at 3 and 6 months relative to those who show no evidence of this thinking or who perceive it as an internal or organic problem (in terms of disease or illness). Greater improvement in ambulation at 3 and 6 months is also noted for subjects whose perception of disability was consistent with more autonomy, independence, and a sense of connection with the world around them. The present study demonstrates the potential utility of narrative analysis as a data reduction approach. It also suggests the possibility of new psychosocial prognostic factors for hip fracture rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Body Image
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Hip Fractures / psychology*
  • Hip Fractures / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Prognosis
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome