Older people are left feeling "powerless and vulnerable" by packaging on supermarket goods, according to a study.

Issues such as difficulty reading labels or opening tins can damage consumers' sense of self-worth, research carried out by the University of Portsmouth found.

Other problems included items being difficult to stack or too heavy to carry because of their packaging.

The findings revealed that ageing-related changes - such as arthritis and deteriorating eyesight and physical strength - made consumers more at risk of experiencing "vulnerability" when buying packaged consumables.

Dr Nicholas Ford, of Portsmouth Business School, said: "A variety of products and services have been identified as inhibiting older people's abilities to maintain their independence, from public transport to kitchen interiors and internet banking.

"However, few factors are highlighted as often as difficulties with packaging. Marketing research has found high levels of dissatisfaction with much packaging among consumers at large. In particular, dissatisfaction has been reported among older consumers with fast-moving consumer goods packaging - ie non-durable packaged items such as tinned food, packet meals and toiletries.

"Studies show that due to changes in physical capabilities and social circumstances, older people risk suffering embarrassment and anger, and even potential illness and serious injury as a result of difficulties with packaging."

Previous studies have shown that an estimated 67,000 visits are made to accident and emergency wards every year in the UK because of accidents involving packaging.

Problems experienced included difficulty opening items and bulky items making older people feeling less independent.

Small font-size and "deceptive" images on packaging also make it difficult for older people to shop without requiring help from others.

The research, published in the Journal of Marketing Management, is based on interviews with a cross-section of consumers aged between 59 and 85.

Dr Ford said: "Blaming oneself is perceived as being easier than the challenge of voicing complaint.

"While seemingly innocuous when considered in isolation, the experiences shared by our participants suggest that the gradual build-up and continuation of stresses can lead to sustained feelings of frustration and powerlessness."

Dr Ford said that easy-opening packaging could provide just one way for firms to add value for older consumers and "good" packaging could contribute to older consumers maintaining independent lives.