Changes over Time in Physical Activity and Psychological Distress among Older Adults
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OBJECTIVE: While previous research has established that regular involvement in physical activity (PA) is associated with better mental health in old age, the socio-cognitive factors that mediate the association have only been partially tested. We examined whether changes in PA are associated with changes in distress during a 6-year period, and whether this association is mediated by changes in global self-esteem, mastery, and physical health status. METHOD: A residualized regression technique was used to examine changes over time in a national longitudinal survey of adults aged 65 years and older (n = 1327). RESULTS: There is a significant association between change in PA and change in distress. Separately, physical health status accounted for 30% of the explained variance of the longitudinal relation between PA and distress, while global self-esteem and mastery accounted for 39%. Combined, they accounted for 50% of the explained variance of PA on distress. CONCLUSION: These findings highlight the importance of psychosocial factors in the relation between PA and distress. Results suggest that PA interventions focused on improving mastery or self-worth, as well as physical fitness, may yield the greatest benefit in alleviating psychological distress.
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