Associations of demographic, functional, and behavioral characteristics with activity-related fear of falling among older adults transitioning to frailty

Reto W. Kressig, Steven L. Wolf, Richard Warren Sattin, Michael O'Grady, Arlene Greenspan, Aaron Curns, Michael Kutner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To determine, in a cohort of older individuals transitioning to frailty (defined by Speechley and Tinetti, 1991) who have previously fallen, whether there are significant associations between demographic, functional, and behavioral characteristics and activity-related fear of falling, using both the Falls Efficacy Scale (FES) and the Activities-Specific Balance Confidence Scale (ABC). DESIGN: Baseline cross-sectional analysis in a prospective cohort intervention study. SETTING: Twenty independent senior living facilities in Atlanta. PARTICIPANTS: Seventeen male and 270 female subjects (n = 287), age 70 and older (mean ± standard deviation, 80.9 ± 6.2), with Mini-Mental State Examination score ≥24, transitioning to frailty, ambulatory (with or without assistive device), medically stable, and having fallen in the past year. MEASUREMENTS: Activity-related fear of falling was evaluated with the FES and ABC Scale. Because of the comparable data derived from each scale, associations with functional measures-related analyses were expressed using the latter. Depression was measured by Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Functional measurements included timed 360° turn, functional reach test, timed 10-meter walk test, single limb stands, picking up an object, and three chair stands. RESULTS: No statistically significant association was found between activity-related fear of falling and age. For the proposed activities, about half (ABC, 48.1%; FES, 50.1%) of the subjects were concerned about falling or showed lack of confidence in controlling their balance. A statistically significant inverse correlation was found between FES and ABC (r = -0.65; P < .001). African-American subjects showed more activity-related fear of falling than did Caucasians (odds ratio (OR): 2.7 for ABC; 2.1 for FES). Fearful individuals were more likely to be depressed and more likely to report the use of a walking aid than were nonfearful individuals. Fear of falling was significantly correlated to all of the functional measurements (P < .05). In a multivariable logistic regression model, depression, using a walking-aid, slow gait speed, and being an African-American were directly related to being more fearful of falling. CONCLUSIONS: Activity-related fear of falling was present in almost half of this sample of older adults transitioning to frailty. The significant association of activity-related fear of falling with demographic, functional, and behavioral characteristics emphasizes the need for multidimensional intervention strategies to lessen activity-related fear of falling in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1456-1462
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001


  • Depression
  • Ethnicity
  • Fear of falling
  • Mobility
  • Transitioning to frailty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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