19 Oct 2023

Walking away from risks

Smartphones have been blamed for distracting people while they walk and putting them more at risk of trips and falls.

New research has now examined their effect on gait and walking confidence when users are walking up and down stairs or travelling on an escalator.

The team studied 32 women at a subway station and measured a range of factors including step frequency, regularity, symmetry and variability.

They found that playing games or texting on phones while walking down escalators had the greatest impact.

The research could help to create more effective educational materials to raise awareness of the potential dangers of using smartphones while walking.

The study, published in the journal Applied Ergonomics, said: “The increasingly ubiquitous use of smartphones has made distracted walking common, not only on flat ground, but also on stairs. Available information regarding changes in gait performance while walking and using a smartphone in different environments is still lacking. We aimed to investigate the differences in gait behaviour and subjective walking confidence while walking up and down stairs and escalators, with and without smartphone use.”

It added: “Smartphone use while walking on stairs and escalators significantly affects gait behaviour and might increase the risk of falls. Interventions and prevention are needed to increase safety education and hazard warnings for the general population.”

Read the full paper.

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