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One-legged balance performance and fall risk in mid and later life: longitudinal evidence from a British birth cohort

Blodgett, Joanna M, Hardy, Rebecca, Davis, Daniel, Peeters, Geeske, Kuh, Diana and Cooper, Rachel ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3370-5720 (2022) One-legged balance performance and fall risk in mid and later life: longitudinal evidence from a British birth cohort. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. ISSN 0749-3797

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Abstract

Introduction: The one-legged balance test is widely used as a fall risk screening tool in both clinical and research settings. Despite rising fall prevalence in midlife, there is little evidence examining balance and fall risk in those aged <65 years. We investigated longitudinal associations between one-legged balance and number of falls between ages 53 and 68. Methods: 2046 individuals from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, a British birth cohort study, were included. One-legged balance times(eyes open, max: 30s) were assessed at ages 53(1999) and 60-64(2006-2010). Fall history within the last year(none, 1, ≥2) was self-reported at ages 60-64 and 68(2014). Multinomial logistic regressions assessed associations between balance and change in balance with subsequent falls. Models adjusted for anthropometric, socioeconomic, behavioural, health-status and cognitive indicators. Analysis occurred between 2019-2022. Results: Balance performance was not associated with single falls. Better balance performance at age 53 was associated with decreased risk of recurrent falls at ages 60-64 and 68, with similar associations between balance at age 60-64 and recurrent falls at age 68. Relative to those who could balance for 30s at ages 53 and 60-64, those with consistently lower balance times (<15s) were at 3.33(RRR 95% CI: 1.91,5.80) greater risk of recurrent falls at age 68 in adjusted models. Conclusions: Lower balance, and consistently low or declining performance, were associated with greater subsequent risk of recurrent falls. Earlier identification and intervention of those with poor balance ability can help minimise risk of recurrent falls in ageing adults.

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