Fear of Outdoor Falling among Community-Dwelling Middle-Aged and Older Adults: The Role of Neighborhood Environments

Sungmin Lee, Chanam Lee, Marcia G. Ory, Jaewoong Won, Samuel D. Towne, Suojin Wang, Samuel N. Forjuoh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: Fear of falling is a substantial barrier to walking and has been associated with increased fall risks. This study examines neighborhood environmental risk factors related to fear of outdoor falling in middle-aged and older adults. Research Design and Methods: A total of 394 participants aged 50 years or older living independently in the community were recruited between 2013 and 2014 from an integrated health care network serving Central Texas. Fear of outdoor falling and perceived neighborhood environmental variables were assessed using self-reported questionnaires. Logistic regression identified perceived neighborhood environmental variables associated with fear of outdoor falling. Results: Sixty-nine (17.9%) of 385 participants reported having a fear of outdoor falling. Compared to those who did not report a fear of outdoor falling, those who reported having a fear of outdoor falling were more likely to be adults aged 65 years or older (odds ratio [OR] = 2.974, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.247-7.094), be female (OR = 4.423, 95% CI = 1.830-10.689), have difficulty with walking for a quarter of a mile (OR = 2.761, 95% CI = 1.124-6.782), and have had a fall in the past year (OR = 4.720, 95% CI = 1.472-15.137). Among the neighborhood environmental characteristics examined, low traffic speed on streets (OR = 0.420, 95% CI = 0.188-0.935), drainage ditches (OR = 2.383, 95% CI = 1.136-5.000), and broken sidewalks (OR = 3.800, 95% CI = 1.742-8.288) were associated with the odds of having a fear of outdoor falling. Discussion and Implications: In addition to the individual factors, findings from this study suggest the importance of addressing the environmental risk factors in identifying and reducing fear of outdoor falling among middle-aged and older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1065-1074
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 3 2018


  • Built environment
  • Fear of falling
  • Social environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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