The impact of falls on activities of daily living in older adults: A retrospective cohort analysis

Claire E. Adam, Annette L. Fitzpatrick, Cindy S. Leary, Sindana D. Ilango, Elizabeth A. Phelan, Erin O. Semmens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Falls contribute to impairments in activities of daily living (ADLs), resulting in significant declines in the quality of life, safety, and functioning of older adults. Understanding the magnitude and duration of the effect of falls on ADLs, as well as identifying the characteristics of older adults more likely to have post-fall ADL impairment is critical to inform fall prevention and post-fall intervention. The purpose of this study is to 1) Quantify the association between falls and post-fall ADL impairment and 2) Model trajectories of ADL impairment pre- and post-fall to estimate the long-term impact of falls and identify characteristics of older adults most likely to have impairment. Method Study participants were from the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study, a randomized controlled trial in older adults (age 75+) in the United States. Self-reported incident falls and ADL scores were ascertained every 6 months over a 7-year study period. We used Cox proportional hazards analyses (n = 2091) to quantify the association between falls and ADL impairment and latent class trajectory modeling (n = 748) to visualize trajectories of ADL impairment pre-and post-fall. Results Falls reported in the previous 6 months were associated with impairment in ADLs (HR: 1.42; 95% CI 1.32, 1.52) in fully adjusted models. Based on trajectory modeling (n = 748), 19% (n = 139) of participants had increased, persistent ADL impairment after falling. Participants who were female, lived in a neighborhood with higher deprivation, or experienced polypharmacy were more likely to have ADL impairment post-fall. Conclusions Falls are associated with increased ADL impairment, and this impairment can persist over time. It is crucial that all older adults, and particularly those at higher risk of post-fall ADL impairment have access to comprehensive fall risk assessment and evidence-based fall prevention interventions, to help mitigate the negative impacts on ADL function.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0294017
Pages (from-to)e0294017
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 3 2024


  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of falls on activities of daily living in older adults: A retrospective cohort analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this