Examining the relationship between specific cognitive processes and falls risk in older adults: a systematic review

Osteoporos Int. 2012 Oct;23(10):2409-24. doi: 10.1007/s00198-012-1992-z. Epub 2012 May 26.


This systematic review aims to establish which cognitive domains are associated with falls or falls risk. Recent evidence suggests that impaired cognition increases seniors' risk of falling. The purpose of this review was to identify the cognitive domains that are significantly associated with falls or falls risk in older adults. We conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal articles published from 1948 to present, focusing on studies investigating different domains of cognitive function and their association with falls or falls risk in adults aged 60 years or older. In accordance with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, we completed a comprehensive search of MEDLINE, PubMed, and EMBASE databases to identify studies examining the association between cognitive function and falls or falls risk. With an expert in the field, we developed a quality assessment questionnaire to rate the quality of the studies included in this systematic review. Twenty-five studies were included in the review. We categorized studies based on two related but distinct cognitive domains: (1) executive functions or (2) dual-task ability. Twelve studies reported a significant association between executive functions and falls risk. Thirteen studies reported that dual-task performance is a predictor of falls or falls risk in older adults. Three studies did not report an association between cognition and falls risk. Consistent evidence demonstrated that executive functions and dual-task performance were highly associated with falls or falls risk. The results from this review will aid healthcare professionals and researchers in developing innovative screening and treatment strategies for mitigating falls risk by targeting specific cognitive domains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Cognition*
  • Executive Function
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors