Fear of falling and related activity restriction among middle-aged African Americans

Margaret Mary G. Wilson, Douglas K. Miller, Elena M. Andresen, Theodore K. Malmstrom, J. Philip Miller, Fredric D. Wolinsky

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61 Scopus citations


Background. The prevalence of fear of falling and related activity restriction, and their joint distribution with falls and falls efficacy, have been inadequately addressed in population-based studies of middle-aged and African-American groups. Methods. The African American Health project is a population-based panel study of 998 African Americans born in 1936-1950 from two areas of metropolitan St. Louis (an impoverished inner-city area and a suburban area). Fear of falling, fear-related activity restriction, and 24 frailty-related covariates were assessed during in-home evaluations in 2000-2001. Results. We found that 12.6% of participants reported having fear of falling without activity restriction, 13.2% had fear of falling with activity restriction, and 74.2% had no fear of falling. Neither fear of falling nor fear-related activity restriction varied significantly across three birth cohorts (1946-1950, 1941-1945, and 1936-1940). Lack of overlap of these two phenomena with having a fall in the past 2 years and low falls efficacy was considerable. When examined across three groups (no fear, fear without activity restriction, and fear with activity restriction), a consistent pattern of decreasing health status and social, emotional, and physical functioning was demonstrated. Conclusions. In this population-based sample of 49- to 65-year-old African Americans, fear of falling and fear-related activity restriction were surprisingly common and not well explained by prior falls or low falls efficacy. These phenomena were already evident by age 49-55. Further study is warranted, including detailed qualitative investigations examining the timing, precursors, and consequences of fear of falling and fear-related activity restriction in minority and majority populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-360
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005


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