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 > or = 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 degrees 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.