Poor adherence to medications may be associated with falls

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



*Accidental Falls; Age Factors; Aged; Cognition; Confidence Intervals; Female; Humans; Male; *Medication Adherence; Multivariate Analysis; Odds Ratio; Prospective Studies; Psychological Tests; Regression Analysis; Sex Factors


Behavioral Disciplines and Activities | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Epidemiology | Geriatrics | Preventive Medicine


BACKGROUND: Poor medication adherence is associated with negative health outcomes. We investigated whether poor medication adherence increases the rate of falls as part of Maintenance of Balance, Independent Living, Intellect, and Zest in the Elderly of Boston (MOBILIZE Boston), a prospective, community-based cohort recruited for the purpose of studying novel risk factors for falls.

METHODS: A total of 246 men and 408 women (mean age, 78 years) were followed for the occurrence of falls (median follow-up, 1.8 years). Adherence was assessed by the Morisky scale based on the following four questions: whether an individual ever forgets, is careless at times, stops taking medications when feels better, or stops taking medications when feels worse. Low adherence was defined as a "yes" answer to one or more questions. High adherence was defined as a "no" answer to every question.

RESULTS: Forty-eight percent of subjects were classified as having low medication adherence. The rate of falls in the low adherence group was 1.1 falls/person-year (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.0-1.3) compared with 0.7 falls/person-year (95% CI: 0.6-0.8) in the high adherence group. After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, alcohol use, cognitive measures, functional status, depression, and number of medications, low medication adherence was associated with a 50% increased rate of falls compared with high medication adherence (rate ratio = 1.5, 95% CI: 1.2-1.9; p < .001).

CONCLUSIONS: Low medication adherence may be associated with an increased rate of falls among older adults. Future studies should confirm this association and explore whether interventions to improve medication adherence might decrease the frequency of falls and other serious health-related outcomes.


Falls, Elderly, Community, Medication adherence

DOI of Published Version



Berry SD, Quach L, Procter-Gray E, Kiel DP, Li W, Samelson EJ, Lipsitz LA, Kelsey JL. Poor adherence to medications may be associated with falls. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2010 May;65(5):553-8. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glq027. Link to article on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID