Young women ‘more likely to take risks when walking down stairs than young men’

A study suggests young women are more likely to take risks while walking down stairs than young men (Alamy/PA)
A study suggests young women are more likely to take risks while walking down stairs than young men (Alamy/PA)

Young women are more likely than young men to take risks like multitasking or engaging in conversation while walking down stairs, new research suggests.

Falling on the stairs is more likely to result in injuries than other types of falls, researchers say.

They analysed 2,400 university students recorded on either the short staircase (two steps) – 52% of whom were women, or on a long staircase (17 steps) – 29% women, and identified eight risky behaviours.

This included not using the handrail, not watching the stairs while descending, wearing sandals, flip-flops, or high heels, having an in-person or phone conversation, using an electronic device, hands in pockets, holding something, and skipping steps.

HyeYoung Cho and Shirley Rietdyk from Purdue University, USA, and colleagues, also identified five people who lost their balance, all of whom recovered – four were men, on the long staircase, and one was a woman, on the short staircase.

According to the findings, women were significantly less likely to use the handrail (though no participants were recorded using the handrail of the short staircase), they were also more likely to be holding something in their hands.

Further, the study published in Plos One, indicates women were more likely to be engaged in conversation, more likely to wear sandals and heels, and also demonstrated a higher number of co-occurring risky behaviour.

But women were less likely to skip steps and more likely to look at the stair tread during transition steps than men.

Female legs in high heel shoes on steps
The study noted that impractical footwear was more of an issue among young women (Alamy/PA) (Alamy Stock Photo)

The study authors said: “The young women we observed demonstrated more risky behaviour than the young men.

“Future studies should also examine physiological differences that may lead to greater injury risk, such as differences in strength or reaction time.”

To identify risks for falling on the stairs and examine why young women sustain so many stair-related injuries compared to young men in the USA, the authors videotaped two indoor staircases on a US university campus over the course of a semester.

Previous research has shown that women tend to interact more closely with colleagues, suggesting one potential explanation for why so many of the people engaging in in-person conversations on the stairs were women.

The researchers suggest that overall the results indicate women are often multi-tasking and therefore possibly distracted while descending the stairs – and that this might be more dangerous than skipping steps or not looking at the stairs.