What is the relationship between falls, functional limitations, and depressive symptoms among Chinese older adults? The role of living alone


      • Living arrangements in old age are an important determinant of health in Chinese older adults, particularly those who are at risk of falls.
      • Older adults living alone who fall tend to report functional limitations and depressive symptoms.
      • Functional limitations mediate the association between falls and depressive symptoms among Chinese older adults.



      Although the association between falls and depressive symptoms is well documented, the mechanisms underlying this association remain largely unexplored. We investigated the mediation role of functional limitations in the association between falls and depressive symptoms among Chinese older adults and determined whether the living arrangement (living alone or not) is a significant moderator of the above-mentioned mediation pathway.

      Study design

      Cross-sectional study.

      Main outcome measures

      Depressive symptoms were measured using the 10-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale short form (CESD-10), on which higher scores indicate higher levels of depressive symptoms.


      We used the harmonized China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study national baseline data (2011 – 2012 year) involving 7 410 participants aged 60 years and over. After adjusting for covariates (e.g., age and sex), the effects of falls on depressive symptoms were seen to be mediated by functional limitations among Chinese older adults (β  =   0.82, p  <   .001). The moderated mediation analysis, which assesses whether an indirect effect is conditional on values of a moderating variable, found that the mediation effect was contingent upon the living arrangement (β  =  − 0.60, p  =   .029). Specifically, the levels of functional limitations and depressive symptoms were higher for people with falls who were living with others relative to those living alone.


      These results suggest that functional limitations are an important intervening variable that links falls to depressive symptoms among Chinese older adults. Interventions to promote older adults ' physical function and prevent falls are recommended to decrease the risk of depressive symptoms. These interventions can particularly benefit those who live with others.


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