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Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Falls Among Adults Aging With Disability


Matsuda, PN, Verrall, AM, Finlayson, ML, Molton, IR, Jensen, MP



Publication Info:

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 96(3):464-471


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the prevalence of and risk factors for falling among individuals aging with multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophy (MD), postpolio syndrome (PPS), and spinal cord injury (SCI).
DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey data from 2009 to 2010 were analyzed. We used forward logistic regression models to examine whether risk factors such as age, sex, mobility level, years since diagnosis, vision, balance, weakness, number of comorbid conditions, and physical activity could distinguish participants who reported falling from those who did not.
SETTING: Surveys were mailed to community-dwelling individuals who had 1 of 4 diagnoses (MS, MD, PPS, or SCI). The survey response rate was 91%.
PARTICIPANTS: A convenience sample of community-dwelling individuals (N=1862; age, 1894y) with MS, MD, PPS, or SCI in the United States.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Self-reported fall within the last 6 months.
RESULTS: Fall prevalence for people with MS (54%), MD (70%), PPS (55%), and SCI (40%). Across all 4 groups, fall rates peaked in middle age (4564y) and among people with moderate mobility limitations. Seven risk factors differentiated participants who fell from those who did not: mobility level, imbalance, age, curvilinear age (age2), number of comorbid conditions, duration of diagnosis, and sex. The models differed across diagnostic groups.
CONCLUSIONS: People aging with long-term physical disabilities experience unique challenges that affect their risk of falls. A better understanding of the frequency, severity, and risk factors of falls across diagnostic groups is needed to design and implement customized, effective fall prevention and management programs for these individuals.

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