Research Shows Fear of Falling Can Lead to Decreased Activity, Increased Risk of Falling

The March/April edition of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy focuses on fall prevention and treatment, outlining several new studies.

The studies show that occupational therapy contributes to fall prevention among community-living older adults through multicomponent or multifactorial interventions, including environmental modification and exercise.

Researchers found that many people can develop a fear of falling, even if a fall has not occurred. The fear of falling can lead to increased fall risk, decreased motivation and decreased perceptions of capabilities—all of which can cause self-imposed activity restriction. Occupational therapy can address these and other factors related to fear of falling and fall risk.

“Occupational therapy practitioners are in a good place to identify environmental, behavioral and psychological risks for falls in addition to the physical because they are able to evaluate the person’s setting, occupation activities and goals,” said Dr. Elizabeth Peterson, OTR/L, FAOTA, a clinical professor and director of professional education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and guest editor for the journal.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, falls are the leading cause of accidental death in adults age 65 or older.