Objective: To determine (1) whether obese older adults had higher prevalence of falls and ambulatory stumbling, impaired balance and lower health-related quality of life (HRQL) than their normal weight counterparts, and (2) whether the falls and balance measures were associated with HRQL in obese adults.
Methods: Subjects who had a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m2 were classified into an obese group (n = 128) while those with BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2 were included into a normal weight group (n = 88). Functional tests were performed to assess balance, and questionnaires were administered to assess history of falls, ambulatory stumbling, and HRQL.
Results: The obese group reported a higher prevalence of falls (27% vs. 15%), and ambulatory stumbling (32% vs. 14%) than the normal weight group. Furthermore, the obese group had lower HRQL, (p < or = 0.05) for physical function (63 +/- 27 vs. 75 +/- 26; mean +/- SD), role-physical (59 +/- 40 vs. 74 +/- 37), vitality (58 +/- 23 vs. 66 +/- 20), bodily pain (62 +/- 25 vs. 74 +/- 21) and general health (64 +/- 19 vs. 70 +/- 18). In the obese group, a history of falls was related (p < or = 0.05) to lower scores in 4 domains of HRQL, and ambulatory stumbling was related (p < or = 0.01) to 7 domains.
Conclusion: In middle-aged and older adults, obesity was associated with a higher prevalence of falls and stumbling during ambulation, as well as lower values in multiple domains of HRQL. Furthermore, a history of falls and ambulatory stumbling were related to lower measures of HRQL in obese adults.