Familial resemblance and shared latent familial variance in recurrent fall risk in older women

Kimberly A. Faulkner, Jane A. Cauley, Stephen M. Roth, Candace Kammerer, Katie Stone, Teresa A. Hillier, Kristine E. Ensrud, Marc Hochberg, Michael C. Nevitt, Joseph M. Zmuda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: A possible familial component to fracture risk may be mediated through a genetic liability to fall recurrently. Methods: Our analysis sample included 186 female sibling-ships (n = 401) of mean age 71.9 yr (SD = 5.0). Using variance component models, we estimated residual upper-limit heritabilities in fall-risk mobility phenotypes (e.g., chairstand time, rapid step-ups, and usual-paced walking speed) and in recurrent falls. We also estimated familial and environmental (unmeasured) correlations between pairs of fall-risk mobility phenotypes. All models were adjusted for age, height, body mass index, and medical and environmental factors. Results: Residual upper-limit heritabilities were all moderate (P < 0.05), ranging from 0.27 for usual-paced walking speed to 0.58 for recurrent falls. A strong familial correlation between usual-paced walking speed and rapid step-ups of 0.65 (P < 0.01) was identified. Familial correlations between usual-paced walking speed and chair-stand time (-0.02) and between chair-stand time and rapid step-ups (-0.27) were both nonsignificant (P > 0.05). Environmental correlations ranged from 0.35 to 0.58 (absolute values), P < 0.05 for all. Conclusions: There exists moderate familial resemblance in fall-risk mobility phenotypes and recurrent falls among older female siblings, which we expect is primarily genetic given that adult siblings live separate lives. All fall-risk mobility phenotypes may be coinfluenced at least to a small degree by shared latent familial or environmental factors; however, up to approximately one-half of the covariation between usual-paced walking speed and rapid step-ups may be due to a common set of genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1147
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Falls
  • Familial correlation
  • Genetics
  • Heritability
  • Mobility


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