Improving independence and safety through occupational therapy


Occupational Therapy Research Advances Fall Prevention, Treatment

Findings from several studies published in the special March/April edition of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy

BETHESDA, MD — Falls are the leading cause of accidental death in adults age 65 or older. Occupational therapy practitioners across the country are focused on fall prevention now more than ever as more than 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day, a trend expected to continue for the next 19 years. And, by the year 2040, 1 in 5 Americans will be age 70 or older. Advancements in medicine and treatment have enabled a growing number of seniors to age in place, allowing them to thrive comfortably in their homes but has also increased anxiety about falling.

Fall Prevention is the focus of the March/April 2012 edition of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

“Fall prevention is a growing public health problem because of the rapidly growing aging population,” said Elizabeth W. Peterson, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, a clinical professor and director of professional education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and guest editor for the journal. “The articles in this edition of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy are important because they are evidence-based. They demonstrate the impact of OT’s proactive approach, while other health care professions tend to be reactive.”

Special issue articles include

  • Relationship Between Fall-Related Efficacy and Activity Engagement in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Meta-analytic Review
  • Occupational Therapy in Fall Prevention: Current Evidence and Future Directions
  • Feasibility of Interdisciplinary Community-based Fall Risk Screening
  • Fear of Falling and its Relationship With Anxiety, Depression, and Activity Engagement Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults.

The studies found that occupational therapy contributes to fall prevention among community-living older adults through multicomponent or multifactorial interventions, including environmental modification and exercise. The research is clear that a person can develop a fear of falling whether or not a fall has occurred; that anxiety can cause a fear of falling; and that fear of falling can lead to increased fall risk, decreased motivation, and decreased perceptions of capabilities, all of which can then lead to self-imposed activity restriction. Occupational therapy can address these and other factors related to fear of falling and fall risk.

“Occupational therapy practitioners are in a good place to identify environmental, behavioral, and psychological risks for falls in addition to the physical because they are able to evaluate the person’s setting, occupation activities, and goals,” Peterson adds. “This edition shows how occupational therapy practitioners are contributing to this body of knowledge.”

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are trained in helping both adults and children with a broad range of physical, developmental, and psychological conditions. Practitioners also help clients in wellness techniques that may prevent injury.

For more information about these studies or to interview an author or occupational therapist who specializes in fall prevention or treatment, contact AOTA Media Relations Manager Katie Riley at 301-652-6611, ext. 2963 or email

The American Journal of Occupational Therapy is the official journal of the American Occupational Therapy Association, which represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. It is a peer-reviewed publication focusing on research examining the effectiveness and efficiency of occupational therapy practice so that occupational therapy and other health care professionals can make informed, evidence-based decisions in their practice. AJOT publishes 6 times each year in print and online and has an additional online supplement at the end of each calendar year. Articles cover topics such as children and youth; mental health; rehabilitation, disability, and participation; productive aging; health and wellness; work and industry; education; and professional issues. Recent special issues include sensory processing and sensory integration, older drivers and community mobility, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, traumatic brain injury, and stroke. For more information, visit or