Background: Social integration may lead to social support and influence that may in turn protect older community-dwelling adults from falls.
Methods: We examined incident falls over 3 years across quartiles of social integration scores in 6692 Caucasian women enrolled in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (mean age = 77 +/- 5 years). Social integration was assessed using family networks, friendship networks, and interdependence scores. Higher scores correspond to greater integration. Data were analyzed using Poisson regression with generalized estimating equations. Multivariate analyses were used to adjust for other risk factors and potential confounders.
Results: Women reported 11863 falls, averaging 0.60 falls per person annually, 95% confidence interval (CI) (0.57, 0.63), or 600 falls per 1000 women. In age-adjusted analysis, the average incidence rate of falls correlated inversely with family networks, interdependence, and composite integration scores (p <.05). In multivariate analysis, increasing family networks were inversely associated with fall risk, p(trend) =.02. Compared to the lowest quartile, the relative risk of falls (95% CI) associated with family network scores in the second, third, and fourth quartiles were 0.90 (0.79-1.03), 0.86 (0.74-1.00), and 0.84 (0.71-0.99), respectively.
Conclusions: Strong family networks may protect against the risk of falls in older community-dwelling adults.