We developed the Falls Efficacy Scale (FES), an instrument to measure fear of falling, based on the operational definition of this fear as "low perceived self-efficacy at avoiding falls during essential, nonhazardous activities of daily living." The reliability and validity of the FES were assessed in two samples of community-living elderly persons. The FES showed good test-retest reliability (Pearson's correlation 0.71). Subjects who reported avoiding activities because of fear of falling had higher FES scores, representing lower self-efficacy or confidence, than subjects not reporting fear of falling. The independent predictors of FES score were usual walking pace (a measure of physical ability), anxiety, and depression. The FES appears to be a reliable and valid method for measuring fear of falling. This instrument may be useful in assessing the independent contribution of fear of falling to functional decline among elderly people.