OBJECTIVE: Fear of falling (FoF) may alter mobility in older adults, especially among those with visual impairment. Using a longitudinal prospective cohort of older glaucoma patients, we investigated whether and how FoF is associated with future falls and physical activity. DESIGN: Prospective observational cohort study. SETTING: Hospital-based single-center recruitment. PARTICIPANTS: Individuals with glaucoma or suspected glaucoma. MEASUREMENTS: FoF was measured annually over a 3-year period using the University of Illinois at Chicago FoF Questionnaire, with lower Rasch-analyzed FoF scores (in logit units) indicating less fear. Participants recorded falls prospectively over the 3-year period using monthly mail-in calendars. Daily steps were collected annually over 7 days using an accelerometer. Visual field (VF) sensitivity was derived by combining sensitivities from monocular VF results. Participants completed questionnaires to determine other demographic/health characteristics. Multivariate random effects models evaluated within-participant changes in fall rates and physical activity across study years. RESULTS: At lower FoF levels (FoF≤0), each one-unit worsening in FoF score across study years was associated with 2.73 times higher odds of reporting at least one fall in the next year (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.55-4.81) but was not associated with average daily steps (P = .44). Similar results were seen when fall rates were normalized by number of steps taken (P = .97). At higher FoF levels (FoF > 0), inter-year changes in FoF scores were not significantly associated with reporting a fall in the following year (P = .78) but were associated with 407 fewer average daily steps per one-unit change in FoF (95% CI = -743 to -71). CONCLUSION: FoF is an important psychological factor associated with mobility in glaucoma patients, although specific aspects of mobility (fall rates vs activity levels) affected vary by the degree of FoF. Our findings suggest that customizing behavioral interventions for older adults based on their levels of FoF may be an important strategy for fall prevention and activity promotion. J Am Geriatr Soc 68:1847-1851, 2020.
Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.