Date of Award

January 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Joelle C. Ruthig


Falls can have detrimental effects on older adults’ physical and psychological health, and survival rates. However, there appears to be a protective psychosocial mediator that may lessen the negative impact of experiencing a fall on health and well-being. The psychosocial factors examined as mediators of the falls - health and well-being relationship in this study were dispositional optimism and perceived control. Participants were 232 community-dwelling older adults, age 68 or older. This study was linked to a longitudinal study including data collected in 2008 and 2010 (Grand Cities Healthy Aging Study (GCHAS). Measurements of dispositional optimism, perceived control, self-rated physical health, health-care utilization, number of falls, symptoms of depression, perceived stress and physical activity were examined. Survival was also tracked. Older adults who suffered a fall had poorer health and well-being cross-sectionally and at the two-year follow-up than those who did not suffer a fall. Perceived control mediated the negative impact of falls on certain current and subsequent health and well-being variables up to two years later. Among older adults who experienced a fall, higher levels of perceived control predicted better cross-sectional and subsequent health and well-being. Falls also predicted less likelihood of survival seven years later, with covariates accounted for. These findings have clinical implications.