Dizzy - why not take a walk? Low level physical activity improves quality of life among elderly with dizziness

Gerontology. 2009;55(6):652-9. doi: 10.1159/000235812. Epub 2009 Aug 25.


Background: Dizziness is a very common complaint. The frequency of dizziness increases with age. It affects quality of life negatively for older persons in several ways.

Objectives: This study intended to investigate which variables (physical activity, loneliness, health complaints, need of help for daily living and falls) differed between those with and without dizziness and also to investigate which factors affected quality of life among older persons with dizziness.

Method: An age-stratified, randomised sample of senior citizens - aged 75 or older - living in the south of Sweden (n = 4,360) answered a questionnaire concerning demographic data, social network, health complaints and diseases, feelings of loneliness, quality of life (Short Form 12), frequency of falls and activities.

Results: Dizziness was associated with an increased risk of falling. Falls in the last 3 months were reported in 31% of the subjects with dizziness compared to 15% among those without (p < 0.001). Dizziness also correlated with depression, with 42.5% feeling depressed among the elderly reporting dizziness as compared with 13.2%. Exercise, both light (i.e. go for a walk) or heavy (i.e. work in the garden), correlated with reduced risk of low quality of life among older, dizzy persons, both mental (light exercise OR 0.58; heavy OR 0.48) and physical (light OR 0.62; heavy OR 0.21). The proportion of dizzy persons doing light exercise was 75.6% versus 87.4% among the not dizzy (p < 0.001). Exercise reduces the risk of falling and the risk of being depressed, and increases quality of life.

Conclusion: Even light exercise seems beneficial both for improving quality of life and to decrease the risk of falling, which in turn will lower the mortality rate. Older persons reporting dizziness should be encouraged and perhaps helped to exercise. If one could increase physical activity among the elderly, it would reduce the number of falls, diminish medical costs, suffering for the individual, and be of paramount medicosocial importance for society.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Dizziness / epidemiology*
  • Dizziness / physiopathology*
  • Dizziness / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Walking / physiology