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.
- Familial correlation