Falls can impair health and reduce quality of life among older adults. Although many factors are related to falling, few analyses examine causal models of this behavior. In this study, factors associated with falling were explored simultaneously using structural-equation modeling. A variety of cognitive, physical-performance, and health measures were administered to 694 older adult drivers from the state of Maryland. The observed and latent variables of age, cognitive ability, physical functioning, health, and falling behavior were used to create a causal model. The model revealed that being older was associated with declines in cognition, and such cognitive declines predicted increased falling. Similarly, poorer health was related to poorer physical functioning, which, in turn, also predicted increased falling. This model indicates that in addition to existing fall-prevention interventions aimed at improving physical functioning, interventions to improve cognition and health might also be effective. It is speculated that fear of falling, which often results in reduced mobility among older adults, might account for the lack of a direct relationship between age and falling. This hypothesis should be examined in further research.
Vance, Ball, and Wadley are with the Dept. of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294-2100. Roenker and Cissell are with the Dept. of Psychology, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY 42101. Edwards is with the Dept. of Psychology, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 358993.