Relationship Between Fear of Falling and Physical Activity in People Aging With a Disability

Patricia N. Matsuda, Thomas Eagen, Kimberly P. Hreha, Marcia L. Finlayson, Ivan R. Molton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: An estimated one billion people worldwide live with some form of disability and may face many challenges as they age, including increased fall risk. Understanding the risk factors linking falls, fear of falling, and activity restriction is critical for developing effective programs to increase activity levels among persons with disabilities. Objectives: To determine if differences exist in the level of physical activity in people with different types of conditions associated with disability and to investigate if fear of falling is associated with physical activity in individuals who are aging with a long-term disability. Design: Cross-sectional retrospective design. Setting: Community. Participants: A convenience sample of 1812 community-dwelling individuals who had one of four diagnoses: multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophy (MD), spinal cord injury (SCI), or post-polio syndrome (PPS). Methods: Descriptive statistics, chi-square, and analysis of variance, followed by multivariate linear regression analysis were used to examine the association between physical activity status and fear of falling. Main Outcome Measurements: Physical activity volume and fear of falling. Results: After controlling for age, sex, duration of disability, and mobility level, there was variation across diagnostic groups (P <.001). People with SCI reported greater physical activity (M = 25.19) compared to other groups (MS: M = 18.70; MD: M = 21.83; PPS: M = 15.47). Patients with PPS had the greatest concerns about falling (M = 16.08), and patients with MS had the lowest (M = 13.12). Fear of falling was associated with physical activity (P <.001), which remained significant after controlling for diagnosis type, falls history, and level of mobility. Conclusion: Level of physical activity appears to vary among disability diagnoses. These results highlight the importance of addressing fear of falling in people with long-term disability because fear of falling is associated with physical activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)454-461
Number of pages8
JournalPM and R
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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