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Is Fear of Falling the Missing Link to Explain Racial Disparities in Fall Risk? Data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study.

Singh T, Bélanger E, Thomas K. Is Fear of Falling the Missing Link to Explain Racial Disparities in Fall Risk? Data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study. Clinical Gerontologist. 2020 Jul 1; 43(4):465-470.

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OBJECTIVES: Emerging research suggests Black older adults experience a 30% decreased risk for falls compared with their White U.S. counterparts, and this is mediated neither by physical performance nor activity. Fear of falling (FOF) is a significant risk factor for falls, yet we know little about how FOF varies by race/ethnicity. The purpose of this original research brief was to investigate the relationship between race/ethnicity and FOF among older adults. METHODS: 4,981 community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) who had not self-reported a fall in the past 12 months were analyzed. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between race/ethnicity and fear of falling, controlling for sex, age, total annual income, and mobility assistance. RESULTS: FOF differed significantly across racial groups. Black, non-Hispanic older adults were less likely to have FOF (OR  =  .87, 95% CI  =  .71,1.07) compared with their White, non-Hispanic counterparts. In the fully adjusted model, this difference persisted and became stronger (adjusted OR  =  .75, 95%CI  =  .61, .93). CONCLUSION: The decreased risk for falls in Black older adults could be explained by lower FOF in this group. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: These findings should inform public health fall prevention initiatives among community-dwelling older adults.

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