Brief Report| Volume 22, ISSUE 2, P464-467.e4, February 2021

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Is Fear of Falling Associated With Incident Disability? A Prospective Analysis in Young-Old Community-Dwelling Adults



      Fear of falling (FOF) is common in older people and is related to negative outcomes. This study aimed to investigate whether 2 different instruments, the Falls Efficacy Scale–International (FES-I) and the single question on FOF and activity restriction (SQ-FAR), were associated with incident disability at 3 years.


      Prospective observational study.

      Setting and Participants

      Participants (n = 1219, 57.4% women) were disability-free community-dwelling persons enrolled in the Lausanne cohort 65+, aged 66 to 71 years, in 2005.


      Baseline covariates included demographic, cognitive, affective, and health status. Basic activities of daily living (BADL) assessment was recorded annually from a self-administered questionnaire. Disability outcome was defined as reporting difficulty or help needed in ≥1 of 5 BADL in ≥2 consecutive years, or being institutionalized during follow-up.


      At 3 years, disability was reported by 77 participants (6.3%). Reporting the highest level of fear at FES-I [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 5.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.82-14.55, P = .002] or “FOF with activity restriction” with SQ-FAR (aOR 3.23, 95% CI 1.29-8.08, P = .012) were both associated with increased odds of disability even after adjusting for covariates. The FES-I model explained incident disability slightly better than the SQ-FAR one [Bayesian information criterion (BIC) values of 466.70 and 469.43, respectively].

      Conclusions and Implications

      High FOF and related activity restriction, assessed with FES-I and SQ-FAR, are associated with incident disability in young-old community-dwelling people. The SQ-FAR is suitable as a screening tool to proactively detect a potentially reversible risk factor for disability. Using the FES-I may serve additional clinical purposes, such as FOF characterization and management.


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