Activity Patterns and Health Outcomes in Later Life: The Role of Nature of Engagement

TitleActivity Patterns and Health Outcomes in Later Life: The Role of Nature of Engagement
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsChen, Y-C, Putnam, M, Lee, YSoo, Morrow-Howell, N
JournalThe Gerontologist
Date Published04
ISSN Number0016-9013
KeywordsActivity engagement, Cognition, depression, Self-rated health

The health benefit of activity participation at older ages is documented in the current literature. Many studies, however, only explored the health benefits of engaging in a few activities and did not examine mechanisms connecting activity participation to health. We investigated the pathway between activity and health by testing the mediation role of the nature of engagement (physical, cognitive, and social) on physical, mental, and cognitive health of older adults.We analyzed data of 6,044 older adults from the 2010 and 2012 Health and Retirement Study linked with 2011 Consumption and Activity Mail Survey. We used latent class analysis to identify the patterns of participating in 33 activities as well as patterns of nature of engagement, and examined how these patterns were associated with cognition, depressive symptoms, and self-rated health in later life.Meaningful patterns of activity (high, medium, low, passive leisure, and working) and the nature of activity engagement (full, partial, and minimal) were identified. High and working groups, compared to the passive leisure group, showed better health and cognition outcomes. The nature of engagement mediated the relationship between activity patterns and health, especially for older adults who were either full or partially engaged.The nature of engagement may play a more important role than the activity itself in relation to health. Identifying the heterogeneity in activity engagement in later life is critical for tailoring interventions and designing programs that can improve the health of older adults.

Citation Key10.1093/geront/gny023
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