Brad Bergin recently graduated Queen’s University with a Honours Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Life Sciences with a specialization in Neuroscience. Brad has shown strong compassion for the elderly stemming from his experience volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society. He has also revealed a great deal of interest in rehabilitation therapy rising from his long-standing participation in athletics. Psychosocial Predictors of Fear of Falling in the Elderly: Understanding the Role of Social Support, Personal Mastery and Depression was his first research project venture in which he was the lead researcher. This study ignited a passion for inquiry as he then went on to conduct a study examining somatosensory decline in individuals with diabetes for his honours thesis project. Brad wants to take this passion in rehabilitation therapy and research alongside himself as he pursues a future career in medicine. He has recently applied to Canadian medical schools in hopes of attending in the upcoming academic year.
Psychosocial Predictors of Fear of Falling in the Elderly: Understanding the Role of Social Support, Personal Mastery and Depression
Background: Fear of Falling (FF) is a major and common concern in older persons. Social isolation and FF in older persons have been identified as important risk factors for falls. Several cross-sectional analyses have identified determinants of FF, but few longitudinal studies have identified psychosocial predictors of FF.
Purpose: This study was aimed at identifying the ability of social support, depression and personal mastery variables in predicting the incidence of FF.
Methods: InCHIANTI study participants (n=350) aged 65 and older exhibiting no FF at baseline were included. FF was measured using the Survey of Activities and Fear of Falling in the Elderly (SAFE). The number of people completely available for the participant, the number of people seen each day by the participant and those living alone were used to assess social support. Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale (CES-D) scores were used to evaluate the degree of depressive symptoms experienced by the participants. Personal mastery scores of each participant were obtained using the Pearlin and Schooler Mastery Scale (PSMS). Demographic variables such as age, sex, income and years of school were adjusted for in the analysis. Variables representing sensorimotor function, physical activity level and cognitive functioning were included as covariates.
Results: In the fully adjusted logistic regression model, depressive symptoms were not predictive of the incidence of FF. The number of people completely available to the participant (p=0.010) and personal mastery scores (p=0.003) were significant predictors of the incidence of FF. Participants who had low availability (≤2 people completely available) were 1.894 (C.I. 1.164-3.081) times as likely to develop FF. Furthermore, participants with low personal mastery scores (≤24) were 2.44 (C.I. 1.365-4.373) times as likely to develop FF. In the fully adjusted linear regression analysis depressive symptoms, social support and personal mastery were not significantly associated with FF severity. However, after stratifying by availability, personal mastery scores were a significant predictor of FF severity in the low availability group (p=0.030). Moreover, there was no significant cumulative impact of clinical depression, low personal mastery and low availability on the incidence or severity of FF.
Conclusion: Older persons with low availability and low personal mastery scores should be closely monitored by health care professions for the incidence of FF. Specifically, the cut off values should be assessed in a clinical setting to identify older persons at risk for developing FF. These two factors should be considered while designing intervention programs for FF.