Introduction: Falls in older people are a major public health problem associated with marked morbidity and reduced quality-of-life. Ability to predict future fallers should allow targeting of falls prevention measures. The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) is a cross-national database in >45,000 individuals aged ≥50 years in 11 countries established in 2004.Successive follow-up waves of data collection have been performed every 2 years.
Methods: We investigated if three commonly used functional tests: grip strength (GS), ability to perform chair stand test (rising from chair without using arms) (CS), and walking speed (WS) which were performed in wave 2 could predict falls after 4 years (wave 4) (self-reported fall in last 6 months).
Results: The median age was 64.7 years (IQR: 58.5–72.5). Falls at follow-up were reported by 5.8% (881/15,221). Women (55.5% of population) had an increased falls risk (OR: 1.9; 95% CI: 1.7–2.2; P =< 0.001). Those unable to perform the CS (2.6%) had a significantly increased risk of falling (OR: 2.5; 95% CI: 2.2–2.8;P < 0.001). Compared with the highest quartile of GS, those with lowest quartile GS were at increased falls risk (OR: 3.3; 95% CI: 2.7–4.2;P < 0.001). WS test was only performed in those ≥76 years. Compared with the highest WS quartile, those with the lowest quartile WS (cut-off 0.5 m/s) were at an increased falls risk (OR: 1.8; 95% CI: 1.1–2.8; P = 0.012). Multivariate analysis (including adjustment for age, body mass index and gender) showed that CS, GS and WS remained independent significant predictors of falls.
Discussion: Decreased grip strength, slower walking speed and inability to stand from chair without using arms predict falling in an ageing population across Europe and therefore could potentially allow targeting of fall prevention strategies.