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

Kara Martin, Leigh Blizzard, Velandai Srikanth, Amanda Gabrielle Wood, Russell Thomson, Lauren Maree Sanders, Michele Callisaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


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 60-86. 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
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1091 - 1097
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Cite this