Background: The relationships of fear of falling and fall-related efficacy with measures of basic and instrumental activities of daily living (ADL-IADL) and physical and social functioning were evaluated in a cohort of community-living elderly persons.
Methods: Sociodemographic, medical, psychological, and physical performance (e.g., gait speed, timed hand function) measures were administered, during an in-home assessment, to a probability sample of 1,103 residents of New Haven, Connecticut, who were > or = 72 years of age. Falls and injuries in the past year, fear of falling, and responses to the Falls Efficacy Scale were also ascertained. The three dependent variables included a 10-item ADL-IADL scale, an 8-item social activity scale, and a scale of relative physical activity level.
Results: Among cohort members, 57% denied fear of falling whereas 24% acknowledged fear but denied effect on activity; 19% acknowledged avoiding activities because of fear of falling. Twenty-four percent of recent fallers vs 15% of nonfallers acknowledged this activity restriction (chi 2 = 13.1; p < .001). Mean fall-related efficacy score among the cohort was 84.9 (SD 20.5), 79.8 (SD 23.4), and 88.1 (SD 17.9) among fallers and nonfallers, respectively (p < or = .0001). Fall-related efficacy proved a potent independent correlate of ADL-IADL (partial correlation = .265, p < .001); physical (partial correlation = .234, p < .001); and social (partial correlation = .088, p < .01), functioning in multiple regression models after adjusting for sociodemographic, medical, psychological, and physical performance covariates as well as history of recent falls and injuries. Fear of falling was only marginally related (p = .05) with ADL-IADL functioning and was not associated with higher level physical or social functioning.
Conclusions: The strong independent association between self-efficacy and function found in this study suggests that clinical programs in areas such as prevention, geriatric evaluation and management, and rehabilitation should attempt simultaneously to improve physical skills and confidence. Available knowledge of the factors influencing efficacy should guide the development of these efficacy-building programs.