Mobility explains the association between social activity and mortality risk in older people

Social activity and health correlate in old age, but less is known about what explains this association. The results of a study carried out in the Gerontology Research Center showed that part of the association between social activity and mortality was mediated by mobility among older men and women. Of other potential mediators, having less depressive symptoms and better cognitive functioning are merely prerequisites for social activity.

"The health-enhancing influences of social activity may be partly explained by better mobility among persons who are socially active. Moreover, social activity may maintain mobility and thus decrease , as many also include physical activity," says Katja Pynnönen, a PhD student from the University of Jyväskylä, Department of Health Sciences.

Collective social activity researched in this study included, for example cultural activities, acting in organizations, travelling, in groups, and dancing. When participating in these kinds of activities, a person acts together with other people and may experience a sense of belonging to a group and a feeling of being liked and accepted.

Helping others in various daily tasks is an example of productive social activity which may give feelings of doing good and being useful.

"Good and having less seemed to be prerequisites for social activity. Thus, it is important to recognize and take into account those older people who have memory problems and are melancholy, and may need extra support to participate in social activities," says Pynnönen.

The study is part of the Evergreen project carried out in the University of Jyväskylä. In 1988, 406 men and 775 women aged 65–84 years took part in face-to-face interviews. Data on mortality were drawn from the population register.

More information: Do mobility, cognitive functioning, and depressive symptoms mediate the association between social activity and mortality risk among older men and women? Pynnönen Katja, Törmäkangas Timo, Rantanen Taina, Lyyra Tiina-Mari , European Journal of Ageing, October 2013 DOI: 10.1007/s10433-013-0295-3

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Does Facebook make you fat?

Sep 11, 2012

Time spent on social networking sites comes at the expense of other activities – including physical activity, new research by the University of Ulster has revealed. 

Learning new skills keeps an aging mind sharp

Oct 21, 2013

Older adults are often encouraged to stay active and engaged to keep their minds sharp, that they have to "use it or lose it." But new research indicates that only certain activities—learning a mentally demanding skill ...

Recommended for you

Uruguay begins registering marijuana growers

6 hours ago

Just a handful of people had registered by midday Wednesday to be private growers of marijuana in Uruguay, the first country to fully legalize the production, sale and distribution of the drug.

Tracking spending among the commercially insured

16 hours ago

Recent growth in health care spending for commercially insured individuals is due primarily to increases in prices for medical services, rather than increased use, according to a new study led by researchers at The Dartmouth ...

Taking aim at added sugars to improve Americans' health

20 hours ago

Now that health advocates' campaigns against trans-fats have largely succeeded in sidelining the use of the additive, they're taking aim at sugar for its potential contributions to Americans' health conditions. But scientists ...

User comments