Influence of Proxies on the Reported Frequency of Falls, Fear of Falling and Activity Restriction in Older People


Introduction: In older populations, the help of a third person may be necessary for a certain number of individuals in order to fill in questionnaires. The influence of this assistance on the collected information can raise questions, among others concerning the concordance between the information provided by the persons themselves and by their proxies, or the introduction of a potential bias. Our study’s objective is to examine, among older people, the differences in the reported frequency of falls, fear of falling and activity restriction due to fear of falling, according to the fact that people had filled in a questionnaire with or without the help of a third person. Methods: The data used come from the secondary analysis of a cross-sectional survey using a self-administered questionnaire and conducted in 2006 in a Belgian semi-rural town among non-institutionalised persons aged 65 years and over. Results: Among the 501 questionnaires, 16.4% were filled in with the help of another person. In bivariate analysis, the persons who needed help reported fall history, fear of falling and activity restriction significantly more often. In multivariable analysis, when considering concurrently the covariates (sex, age, living alone and fall history for fear of falling and for activity restriction), the influence of having received help to fill in the survey was only significant for activity restriction. Conclusion: Our study shows that it is important to know whether or not a person has received help to fill in a questionnaire. This can actually influence the reported frequency of certain outcomes, even, for activity restriction, when considering simultaneously the effect of other covariates. Given the current and future ageing of our populations, it seems that more extensive exploration is needed of the influence of proxies on the collected information about falls, fear of falling and activity restriction among older people.

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da Costa, E. , Godin, I. , Pepersack, T. , Dramaix, M. , Coppieters, Y. , Bantuelle, M. and Levêque, A. (2014) Influence of Proxies on the Reported Frequency of Falls, Fear of Falling and Activity Restriction in Older People. Health, 6, 1512-1521. doi: 10.4236/health.2014.612186.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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