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Characteristics Associated with Fear of Falling and Activity Restriction in Community-Living Older Persons


Address correspondence to Susan L. Murphy, ScD OTR/L, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, 60 College Street, PO Box 208034, New Haven, CT 06520. E-mail:



To identify the characteristics associated with restricting activity because of fear of falling (activity restriction) and to determine which characteristics distinguish older persons who restrict activity from those who have fear of falling but do not restrict their activities (fear of falling alone).


Population-based cross-sectional study.


General community.


One thousand sixty-four community-living persons aged 72 and older.


Candidate predictors were identified from the following domains: demographic, health status, physical, psychosocial, and fall-related. The outcome measure was the report of no fear of falling, fear of falling alone, or activity restriction.


Fifty-seven percent of the cohort reported no fear of falling, 24% reported fear of falling alone, and 19% reported restricting activity. The proportion of participants with poor health status, slow timed physical performance, activities of daily living disability, and poor psychosocial function was highest in those with activity restriction, intermediate in those with fear of falling alone, and lowest in those with no fear of falling. Of participants with fear of falling, characteristics independently associated with activity restriction were history of an injurious fall, slow timed physical performance, two or more chronic conditions, and depressive symptoms.


Older persons who restrict activity are more physically frail and have a greater burden of chronic conditions and depressive symptoms than those who have fear of falling alone. These differences between persons with fear of falling may guide the refinement of clinical interventions and preventative programs. J Am Geriatr Soc 50:516–520, 2002.