Age-related changes in physical fall risk factors: results from a 3 year follow-up of community dwelling older adults in Tasmania, Australia

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013 Nov 11;10(11):5989-97. doi: 10.3390/ijerph10115989.


As the population ages, fall rates are expected to increase, leading to a rise in accidental injury and injury-related deaths, and placing an escalating burden on health care systems. Sixty-nine independent community-dwelling adults (60-85 years, 18 males) had their leg strength, physical activity levels and their annual fall rate assessed at two timepoints over three years, (summer 2010 and summer 2013) monitoring balance. Force platform measures of medio-lateral sway range increased significantly under conditions of eyes open (mean difference MD 2.5 cm; 95% CI 2.2 to 2.8 cm) and eyes closed (MD 3.2 cm; 95% CI 2.8 to 3.6 cm), respectively (all p < 0.001) indicating worsening static balance control. Dynamic balance showed similar changes (p < 0.036). Leg strength was not significantly different between visits (p > 0.26). Physical activity reduced significantly (MD -909 Cal/week; 95% CI -347 to -1,470 Cal/week; p = 0.002) during the course of the study. Participants maintained aerobic activities, however resistance and balance exercise levels decreased non-significantly. The likelihood of falling was higher at the end of the study compared to the first timepoint (odds ratio 1.93, 95% CI 0.94 to 3.94; p = 0.07). Results of this study indicate that despite maintenance of leg strength there was an increase in medio-lateral sway over a relatively short time frame, with higher than expected increases in fall rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Postural Balance*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Tasmania