Journal of Gerontological Nursing

Feature Article 

The Burden of Falling on the Quality of Life of Adults with Medicare Supplement Insurance

Kevin Hawkins, PhD; Shirley Musich, PhD; Ronald J. Ozminkowski, PhD; Ming Bai, MD, MPH; Richard J Migliori, MD; Charlotte S. Yeh, MD

Abstract

To study the impact of falling or risk of falling on quality of life (QOL) outcomes, a survey was mailed to a random sample of 15,000 adults with an AARP® Medicare Supplement plan insured by UnitedHealthcare from 10 states in 2008. Approximately 21% had fallen in the past year; 17% did not fall but reported balance or walking problems (i.e., at high risk of falling); and 62% were in the low-risk, no-falls comparison group. Multiple regression analyses showed the strongest predictors of falling or being at high risk of falling were advancing age, female gender, heart conditions, stroke, digestive disorders, arthritis, sciatica, diabetes, and hearing problems. Average physical and mental component scores were significantly lower for both those who fell and those at risk of falling than the comparison group, indicating that falling or being at risk of falling had a stronger negative influence on QOL than most of the comorbidities measured. Clinicians, patients, and families should be aware of the potential negative impact of falling and fear of falling on the QOL of older adults.


Abstract

To study the impact of falling or risk of falling on quality of life (QOL) outcomes, a survey was mailed to a random sample of 15,000 adults with an AARP® Medicare Supplement plan insured by UnitedHealthcare from 10 states in 2008. Approximately 21% had fallen in the past year; 17% did not fall but reported balance or walking problems (i.e., at high risk of falling); and 62% were in the low-risk, no-falls comparison group. Multiple regression analyses showed the strongest predictors of falling or being at high risk of falling were advancing age, female gender, heart conditions, stroke, digestive disorders, arthritis, sciatica, diabetes, and hearing problems. Average physical and mental component scores were significantly lower for both those who fell and those at risk of falling than the comparison group, indicating that falling or being at risk of falling had a stronger negative influence on QOL than most of the comorbidities measured. Clinicians, patients, and families should be aware of the potential negative impact of falling and fear of falling on the QOL of older adults.


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Authors

Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Musich are Senior Research Directors, and Dr. Ozminkowski is Vice President, Research and Development, Advanced Analytics, Ingenix, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Dr. Bai is Manager, Pharmacy Analytic Solutions, Ingenix, Rocky Hill, Connecticut; Dr. Migliori is Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealth Group Alliances, Minnetonka, Minnesota; and Dr. Yeh is Chief Medical Officer, AARP Services, Inc., Washington, DC. Dr. Ozminkowski is also Vice President, Research and Policy, UnitedHealth Group Alliances, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The authors disclose that they have no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity, including research support. The authors thank Frank G. Bottone, Jr., PhD, of Ingenix for his editorial assistance.

Address correspondence to Kevin Hawkins, PhD, Senior Research Director, Advanced Analytics, Ingenix, 5430 Data Court, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48108; e-mail: Kevin.Hawkins@ingenix.com.

Received: August 11, 2010

Accepted: December 07, 2010

Posted Online: April 13, 2011

10.3928/00989134-20110329-03

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