• falls;
  • risk factors;
  • elderly

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.