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Cognitive function modifies the effect of physiological function on the risk of multiple falls - a population-based study


Martin, KL and Blizzard, L and Srikanth, VK and Wood, A and Thomson, R and Sanders, LM and Callisaya, ML, Cognitive function modifies the effect of physiological function on the risk of multiple falls - a population-based study, Journals of Gerontology. Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 68, (9) pp. 1091-1097. ISSN 1079-5006 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 The Author

DOI: doi:10.1093/gerona/glt010


Background: There is a poor understanding of the interplay between cognitive and physiological functions in leading to falls. We hypothesized that poorer physiological function would modify the effect of poorer cognitive function on increased risk of falling in older people.

Methods: A range of cognitive (executive function/attention, memory, processing speed, and visuospatial ability) and physiological functions (vision, proprioception, sway, leg strength, reaction time) were measured using standardized tests in 386 randomly selected adults aged 6086. Incident falls were recorded over 12 months. Log-multinomial regression was used to model the relationships and test for interactions between cognition and physiological function in explaining the risk of single or multiple falls.

Results: Overall, 94 people (24.4%) had a single fall, and 78 (20.2%) had multiple falls. No significant associations were observed between cognitive function and the risk of single falls. The risk of multiple falls was increased with poorer function in Stroop dot time (RR = 1.03, 95% CI [1.01, 1.05], p = .002) and Stroop word time (RR = 1.02 [1.01, 1.03], p = .001) and reduced with better function in Category Fluency (RR = 0.94 [0.91, 0.98], p = .001) and visuospatial function (RR = 0.95 [0.92, 0.98], p < .001). These associations were amplified by the presence of greater body sway, less ambulatory physical activity, slower reaction time and gait speed, weaker muscle strength, and poorer visual contrast (p for interactions <.05).

Conclusions: Preventing falls due to physiological impairments in community-dwelling older people may need to be tailored based on cognitive impairment, a key factor in their inability to compensate for physical decline.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:accidental falls, cognition, sensorimotor, risk factors, elderly, population based
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Epidemiology
Research Field:Epidemiology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Health related to ageing
UTAS Author:Martin, KL (Dr Kara Martin)
UTAS Author:Blizzard, L (Professor Leigh Blizzard)
UTAS Author:Srikanth, VK (Dr Velandai Srikanth)
UTAS Author:Thomson, R (Dr Russell Thomson)
UTAS Author:Callisaya, ML (Dr Michele Callisaya)
ID Code:85414
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:55
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2013-07-04
Last Modified:2016-10-18

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