Is a fall just a fall: correlates of falling in healthy older persons. The Health, Aging and Body Composition Study

Nathalie de Rekeneire, Marjolein Visser, Rita Peila, Michael C Nevitt, Jane A Cauley, Frances A Tylavsky, Eleanor M Simonsick, Tamara B Harris

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To identify factors associated with falling in well-functioning older people.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional analyses of report of falls over the past 12 months using baseline data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study.

SETTING: Clinic examinations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or Memphis, Tennessee.

PARTICIPANTS: Three thousand seventy-five high-functioning black and white elderly aged 70 to 79 living in the community.

MEASUREMENTS: Physical function assessed using self-report and performance measures. Health status indicators included diseases, medication use, and body composition measures.

RESULTS: Almost one-quarter (24.1%) of women and 18.3% of men reported at least one fall within the year before the baseline examination. Fallers were more likely to be female; white; report more chronic diseases and medications; and have lower leg strength, poorer balance, slower 400-meter walk time, and lower muscle mass. In men, multivariate logistic regression models showed white race (adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 1.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.2-1.6), slower 6-meter walk speed (OR = 1.1, 95% CI = 1.0-1.3), poor standing balance (OR = 1.2, 95% CI = 1.0-1.4), inability to do 5 chair stands (OR = 1.7, 95% CI = 1.3-1.9), report of urinary incontinence (UI) (OR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.1-2.0), and mid-quintile of leg muscle strength (OR = 0.6, 95% CI = 0.4-0.9) to be independently associated with report of falling. In women, benzodiazepine use (OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.0-2.6), UI (OR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.2-1.9), and reported difficulty in rising from a chair (OR = 1.4, 95% CI = 1.2-1.6) were associated with past falls.

CONCLUSION: Falls history needs to be screened in healthier older adults. Even for well-functioning older persons, specific correlates of falling can be identified to define those at risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-6
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


  • Accidental Falls
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Motor Skills
  • Musculoskeletal Physiological Phenomena
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Assessment
  • Walking
  • Comparative Study
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.


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