Perceptions of older people living in the community about their fear of falling

Disabil Rehabil. 2008;30(23):1803-11. doi: 10.1080/09638280701669508.


Purpose: A fear of falls is widespread amongst older Australians. It increases the risk of falls and can lead to restriction of activity. The aim of this study was to gain insight into the precursors of a fear of falls and the experiences associated with this fear.

Methods: Using a qualitative, phenomenological method, individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 9 community-based participants who reported moderate to high levels of fear of falling.

Results: Most participants did not fear falling until they had experienced a fall themselves. The fear of falls was described as a negative experience, often linked with incapacitation, fear of dependence and having to leave their home. Participants chose to avoid falls by 'taking care'. Five themes emerged from data analysis: activity levels; view of the future; perceptions of fall experiences; fall avoidance; and development of fear of falls.

Conclusions: The results indicated that factors other than a fear of falling resulted in a restriction of activities for these participants; therefore, it cannot be assumed that a fear of falls alone results in reduction of activity. Fear of falls, in combination with other potential issues that could restrict activities, should be taken into account in the development of fall-prevention programs in order to ensure clients' needs are being met.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Geriatrics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Life Style*
  • Male