Mood disorders and physical functioning difficulties as predictors of complex activity limitations in young U.S. adults
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BACKGROUND: There is established research that shows associations between basic physical functional difficulties and complex activity limitations. In addition, there is some research that shows associations between mood disorders and complex activity limitations. However, there is limited research looking at the joint association between mood disorders and physical functioning and complex activity limitations. Furthermore, because mood disorders and physical functioning limitations increase with age, there is a lack of information available on younger adults. OBJECTIVES: We assess the impact of mood disorders and physical function difficulties as predictors of complex activity limitations in young U.S. adults, using data from a national survey. METHODS: We use data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) among young U.S. adults 17 to 39 years of age. Selected basic actions difficulties include physical functioning difficulties (motor, visual, or hearing difficulties) and mood disorders (major depressive disorder, dysthymia, or bipolar disorder). Selected complex activity limitations include limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs) (walking inside the home, standing from a chair, getting into and out of bed, eating, and dressing), instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) (doing chores around the house, preparing meals, and managing money), and/or specific major life activities (limitations in the kind or amount of work or housework they could perform, or being limited in any way because of an impairment or health problem). RESULTS: The prevalence of basic actions difficulty (physical functioning and/or mood disorder difficulties) among young adults is 34%. Among the young adults with basic actions difficulty, nearly 39% have mood disorders. The prevalence rates for ADL/IADL, major life activities, and any complex activity limitation are 8.6%, 8.1%, and 13.6%, respectively. Compared with young adults with no basic actions difficulties, the results showed that young adults with mood disorders alone had elevated adjusted odds ratios (2.5) for limitations in ADLs and/IADLs. For all the complex activity limitations analyzed, compared to those with no basic actions difficulties, young adults with physical functioning difficulties alone had substantially higher adjusted odds ratios (5.4-8.7) and young adults with comorbid mood disorder and physical functioning difficulties had the highest observed odds ratios (9.7-14.0). CONCLUSIONS: The data suggest a stronger risk of complex activity limitations when mood disorders coexist with physical functioning difficulties, leading to potential interference with a person's ability to accomplish the ADLs/IADLs or major life activities measured in this study. Given the magnitude of basic actions difficulty prevalence, and particularly the substantial contribution of mood disorders to this prevalence, further examination of the mental health component of basic actions difficulty is warranted. A possible area for future research could explore coordinated efforts to reduce physical and mental difficulties and facilitate the accomplishment of complex activities.