Intervention Characteristics Associated With a Reduction in Fear of Falling Among Community-Dwelling Older People: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Gerontologist. 2021 Aug 13;61(6):e269-e282. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnaa021.


Background and objectives: Fear of falling (FoF) is associated with decreased physical functioning and an increased fall risk. Interventions generally demonstrate moderate effects and optimized interventions are needed. Intervention characteristics, such as setting or delivery method may vary. We investigated which overarching intervention characteristics are associated with a reduction in FoF in community-dwelling older people.

Research design and methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in community-dwelling older people without specific diseases was performed. Associations between intervention characteristics and standardized mean differences (SMD) were determined by univariate meta-regression. Sensitivity analyses were performed.

Results: Data on 62 RCTs were extracted, 50 intervention groups were included in the meta-analysis. Most intervention characteristics and intervention types were not associated with the intervention effect. Supervision by a tai chi instructor (SMD: -1.047, 95% confidence interval [CI]: -1.598; -0.496) and delivery in a community setting (SMD: -0.528, 95% CI: -0.894; -0.161) were-compared to interventions without these characteristics-associated with a greater reduction in FoF. Holistic exercise, such as Pilates or yoga (SMD: -0.823, 95% CI: -1.255; -0.392), was also associated with a greater reduction in FoF. Delivery at home (SMD: 0.384, 95% CI: 0.002; 0.766) or with written materials (SMD: 0.452, 95% CI: 0.088; 0.815) and tailoring were less effective in reducing FoF (SMD: 0.687, 95% CI: 0.364; 1.011).

Discussion and implications: Holistic exercise, delivery with written materials, the setting and tailoring potentially represent characteristics to take into account when designing and improving interventions for FoF in community-dwelling older people. PROSPERO international prospective register of systematic reviews, registration ID CRD42018080483.

Keywords: Accidental falls; Falls self-efficacy; Intervention effectiveness.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls* / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Fear
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Tai Ji*