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Depression and falls among community dwelling elderly people: a search for common risk factors
  1. A Biderman1,
  2. J Cwikel2,
  3. A V Fried3,
  4. D Galinsky3
  1. 1Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and Klalit Health Services, Beer Sheva, Israel
  2. 2Department of Social Work and Centre for Women's Health Studies and Promotion, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
  3. 3Department of Geriatric Medicine, Soroka Medical Centre, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr A Biderman, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, POB 653, Beer Sheva, Israel 84105;


Study objectives: Depression and falls are two common conditions that impair the health of older people. Both are relatively underdiagnosed and undertreated problems in primary care. The study objective was to investigate whether there was a common set of risk factors that could predict an increased risk of both falls and depression.

Design: This was a cohort study drawn from a primary care clinic, with a one year follow up. Dependent measures included: reporting two or more falls in the past year and a score of 7 or over on the S-GDS (Short Geriatric Depression Scale). A parsimonious set of risk factors was selected that predicted both outcomes based on a series of discriminant function analyses.

Participants and setting: The setting was a primary care clinic serving a mixed socioeconomic population, in Beer Sheva, Israel. The sample included 283 General Sick Fund members, aged 60 and over, who completed both baseline assessments and one year follow up interviews.

Main results: At the one year follow up, 12% of the sample reported frequent falls in the past year and 25.5% of the sample screened positive for depressive symptoms. A set of five risk factors that included: poor self rated health, poor cognitive status, impaired ADL, two or more clinic visits in the past month, and slow walking speed (g10 seconds over five metres) was successful at discriminating between fallers and non-fallers (86% discrimination) and between those with and without depressive symptoms (76%). For every risk factor added, there was a significant increase in the proportion of respondents who had depressive symptoms. A similar result was found for falls.

Conclusions: These results show that there is a common set of risk factors that increase the risk of two common outcomes in geriatric medicine, falls and depression. For a general practitioner or a geriatric physician, it might be easier to detect these risk factors than to diagnose depression or high risk for falls. When these risk factors are detected in patients the physician can then be more active in direct probing about depression and falls.

  • elderly persons
  • depression
  • falls
  • primary care
  • risk factors

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  • Funding: this work was partially supported by a grant from Israel's National Insurance Institute, Division on Special Projects and ESHEL-JOINT. The work was based on the NEFI (Negev Elderly Falls Intervention) project.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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