Transient versus persistent fear of falling in community-dwelling older adults: Incidence and risk factors

Mooyeon Oh-Park, Xiaonan Xue, Roee Holtzer, Joe Verghese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To investigate the incidence of fear of falling (FOF) and the risk factors associated with transient versus persistent FOF in community-dwelling older adults. DESIGN: Prospective cohort study. SETTING: Bronx County, New York. PARTICIPANTS: Three hundred eighty participants without FOF at baseline in the Einstein Aging Study aged 70 and older. MEASUREMENTS: FOF was assessed at baseline and during follow-up interviews at 2- to 3-month intervals for a minimum 2 years. Incident FOF was classified as transient or persistent FOF. Transient FOF was defined as new-onset FOF reported at only one interview, and persistent FOF was FOF reported at two or more interviews over a 2-year period. RESULTS: Twenty-four-month cumulative incidence of incident FOF was 45.4%, with 60.0% of FOF being persistent. Predictors of incident FOF included female sex (adjusted hazard ratio (aHR)=1.55, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.08-2.23), depressive symptoms (aHR=1.16, 95% CI=1.07-1.26), falls (aHR=1.50, 95% CI=1.01-2.21), and clinical gait abnormality (aHR=2.07, 95% CI=1.42-3.01). The proportion of participants with incident FOF increased linearly with increasing number of risk factors. Predictors for transient and persistent FOF were depressive symptoms and clinical gait abnormality. Female sex and previous falls were predictors of persistent but not transient FOF. CONCLUSION: FOF status in older adults may change over time, with shared and distinct risk factors for persistent and transient FOF. Understanding the dynamic nature of FOF and these risk factors will help identify high-risk groups and design future intervention studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1225-1231
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • fear of falling
  • older adults
  • risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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