An Interpretable Machine Learning Approach to Predict Fall Risk Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults: a Three-Year Longitudinal Study

Takaaki Ikeda, Upul Cooray, Masanori Hariyama, Jun Aida, Katsunori Kondo, Masayasu Murakami, Ken Osaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Adverse health effects resulting from falls are a major public health concern. Although studies have identified risk factors for falls, none have examined long-term prediction of fall risk. Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that there are additional risk factors, such as psychosocial factors. Objective: In this 3-year longitudinal study, we evaluated a predictive model for risk of fall among community-dwelling older adults using machine learning methods. Design: A 3-year follow-up prospective longitudinal study (from 2010 to 2013). Setting: Twenty-four municipalities in nine of the 47 prefectures (provinces) of Japan. Participants: Community-dwelling individuals aged ≥65 years who were functionally independent at baseline (n = 61,883). Methods: The baseline survey was conducted from August 2010 to January 2012, and the follow-up survey was conducted from October to December 2013. Both surveys were conducted involving self-reported questionnaires. The measured outcome at the follow-up survey was self-reported multiple falls during the previous year. The 142 variables included in the baseline survey were regarded as candidate predictors. The random-forest-based Boruta algorithm was used to select predictors, and the eXtreme Gradient Boosting algorithm with 10 repetitions of nested k-fold cross-validation was used for modeling and model evaluation. Furthermore, we used shapley additive explanations to gain insight into the behavior of the prediction model. Key Results: Fourteen out of 142 candidate features were selected as predictors. Among these predictors, experience of falling as of the baseline survey was the most important feature, followed by self-rated health and age. Moreover, sense of coherence was newly identified as a risk factor for falls. Conclusions: This study suggests that machine learning tools can be adapted to explore new associative factors, make accurate predictions, and provide actionable insights for fall prevention strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2727-2735
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Aug


  • Boruta
  • eXtreme Gradient Boosting
  • fall prediction
  • psychosocial factors
  • random forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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