Summary: A longitudinal study of women aged 40–80 predicted single falls from a previous fall history and deficient vestibular integration. Multiple falls were predicted by a fall history, low activity levels, more medical conditions and deficient vestibular integration. Low bone mineral density, more medical conditions and fall history predicted fractures.
Introduction: The purpose of this study was to identify potentially modifiable health-related factors predicting falls and fractures, focussing on women over 40.
Methods: Four hundred and forty-nine women aged 40–80 years from the Longitudinal Assessment of Women study participated. Demographic information (age, BMI, medications, medical conditions and activity level), balance assessments (including timed up & go and modified clinical test for sensory interaction of balance) and measurements of bone mineral density and body composition were collected in 2001; fall and fracture data were gathered in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010 to determine incidence.
Results: Multinomial logistic regression revealed that single falls could be predicted by a history of previous falls (OR 3.08) and being unsteady in bipedal stance on foam with eyes closed (OR 1.99). Multiple falls were predicted by a history of falls at baseline (OR 4.69), low levels of activity (OR 2.17), greater number of medical conditions (OR 1.12) and being unsteady in bipedal stance on foam with eyes closed (OR 4.21). Low bone mineral density (OR 3.13), greater number of medical conditions (OR 1.32) and a history of falls (OR 3.04) were predictive of fractures.
Conclusions: Poor health, decreased balance, and inactivity are predictive of falls and low bone mineral density, low activity level and poor health predictive fractures. Results suggest failing the balance test bipedal stance on foam with eyes closed in the presence of low activity and poor health is a valid quick screening tool for detecting potential fallers for referral for in-depth balance assessment and intervention.