Falling, health status, and the use of health services by older adults: A prospective study

Fredric D. Wolinsky, Robert J. Johnson, John F. Fitzgerald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


In this study, data from the Longitudinal Study on Aging were used to prospectively assess the relationship between repetitive falling or falling only once in the year before baseline and changes in health status and the use of health services. Multiple and logistic regression were used to control for a variety of known covariates, in addition to the baseline values of the target outcomes. Repetitive falling was associated with decreased health status, measured by various activities of daily living and disability indices, at both 2- and 4-year follow-ups. One fall, however, was never associated with deteriorating health status. Similarly, repetitive falling was related to a decreased likelihood of visiting a physician (at the first follow-up, only), but to an increased likelihood of hospitalization, nursing home placement, and death (at both follow-ups). Falling just one time, however, was only associated with an increased likelihood of nursing home placement. Based on outcome trajectories, two subpopulations of repetitive fallers were identified. One subpopulation was consistent with the rapid deterioration hypothesized by the “spiral” response to falling, and includes about 35% of the repetitive fallers (i.e., those who die within 4 years of baseline). The other subpopulation was consistent with the initial decline and subsequent stabilization hypothesized by the “drop-stabilization” response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-597
Number of pages11
JournalMedical Care
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Care of falls
  • Elderly
  • Health status
  • Utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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