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Interactive effect between depression and chronic medical conditions on fall risk in community-dwelling elders

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 May 2012

Senyeong Kao
School of Public Health, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan
Yun-Chang Wang
Institute of Life Science, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan
Ya-Mei Tzeng
Institute of Life Science, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan
Chang-Kuo Liang
School of Public Health, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan
Fu-Gong Lin*
School of Public Health, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan
Correspondence should be addressed to: Prof. Fu-Gong Lin, School of Public Health, National Defense Medical Center, No. 161, Min-Chun E. Rd., Sec. 6, Taipei, Taiwan. Phone: +886-2-87923100, ext. 18010; Fax: +886-2-87924811. Email:


Background: It is well documented that fall risk among elderly people is associated with poor health and depression. In this study, we set out to examine the combined effects of medical condition and depression status on fall incidents among community-dwelling elderly people.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out to investigate the fall history of community-dwelling elders involving 360 participants. Those who had experienced at least two falls over the previous year, or one injurious fall, were defined as “fallers.” The Geriatric Depression Scale-15 was used as a screening instrument for depression status.

Results: Based on a multivariate logistic regression and stratification analysis, depression was found to interact with various medical conditions on fall risk. In comparison with the non-depressive reference group, a six-fold fall risk was discernible among depressed elders with polypharmacy, while a five-fold risk was found among depressive elders using ancillary devices, along with a four-fold risk among depressive elders with diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Finally, arthritis was found to produce a nine-fold risk of falls among such populations.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that greater emphasis should be placed on the integration of depression screening as an element of fall risk assessment in elderly people.

Research Article
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2012

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