Mild Neurocognitive Disorder, Social Engagement, and Falls Among Older Primary Care Patients

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2023 Apr;104(4):541-546. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2022.10.008. Epub 2022 Dec 10.


Objectives: (1) To estimate the association between social engagement (SE) and falls; (2) To examine the relation between mild neurocognitive disorder (MNCD) and falls by different levels of SE.

Design: We performed a secondary data analysis using prospective cohort study design.

Setting: Primary care.

Participants: A total of 425 older adult primary care patients at risk for mobility decline (N=425). As previously reported, at baseline, 42% of participants exhibit MNCD.

Main outcome measures: The outcome variable was the number of falls during 2 years of follow-up. Exposure variables at baseline included (1) MNCD identified using a cut-off of 1.5 SD below the age-adjusted mean on at least 2 measures within a cognitive performance battery and (2) SE, which was assessed using the social component of the Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument. High SE was defined as having a score ≥ median value (≥49 out of 100). All models were adjusted for age, sex, education, marital status, comorbidities, and pain status.

Results: Over 2 years of follow-up, 48% of participants fell at least once. MNCD was associated with a higher rate of falls, adjusting for the covariates (Incidence Rate Ratio=1.6, 95% confidence interval: 1.1-2.3). There was no significant association between MNCD and the rate of falls among people with high SE. In participants with low SE (having a score less than 49.5 out 100), MNCD was associated with a higher rate of falls as compared with participants with no neurocognitive disorder (No-NCD).

Conclusions: Among participants with low SE, MNCD was associated with a higher rate of falls, but not among participants with high SE. The findings suggest that high SE may be protective against falls among older primary care patients with MNCD.

Keywords: Falls; Neurocognitive disorder; Rehabilitation; Social engagement; Social participation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Neurocognitive Disorders
  • Primary Health Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Participation*