Objective: To investigate the association between fear of falling and gait performance in well-functioning older persons.
Participants: Subjects (N=860, aged 65-70y) were a subsample of participants enrolled in a cohort study who underwent gait measurements.
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: Fear of falling and its severity were assessed by 2 questions about fear and related activity restriction. Gait performance, including gait variability, was measured using body-fixed sensors.
Results: Overall, 29.6% (210/860) of the participants reported fear of falling, with 5.2% (45/860) reporting activity restriction. Fear of falling was associated with reduced gait performance, including increased gait variability. A gradient in gait performance was observed from participants without fear to those reporting fear without activity restriction and those reporting both fear and activity restriction. For instance, stride velocity decreased from 1.15+/-.15 to 1.11+/-.17 to 1.00+/-.19 m/s (P<.001) in participants without fear, with fear but no activity restriction and with fear and activity restriction, respectively. In multivariate analysis, fear of falling with activity restriction remained associated with reduced gait performance, independent of sex, comorbidity, functional status, falls history, and depressive symptoms.
Conclusions: In these well-functioning older people, those reporting fear of falling with activity restriction had reduced gait performance and increased gait variability, independent of health and functional status. These relationships suggest that early interventions targeting fear of falling might potentially help to prevent its adverse consequences on mobility and function in similar populations.
Copyright 2010 American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.