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Mid-life social participation and physical performance at age 60-64: evidence from the 1946 British Birth Cohort Study

Vusirikala, A, Ben-Shlomo, Y, Kuh, D, Stafford, M, Cooper, R ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3370-5720 and Morgan, GS (2019) Mid-life social participation and physical performance at age 60-64: evidence from the 1946 British Birth Cohort Study. European Journal of Public Health, 29 (5). pp. 986-992.

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Abstract

© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved. BACKGROUND: Previous studies linking social activity and disability have been limited by focussing on self-reported physical performance in older adults (>65). We examined whether social participation in mid-life is associated with objective and subjective measures of physical performance in older age. METHODS: Participants of the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development reported their involvement in social activities at ages 43 and 60-64 years; frequency of such involvement was classified into thirds. Physical performance was measured at age 60-64 using: grip strength; standing balance; chair rises; timed get-up-and-go; self-reported physical function from the Short Form-36. Multivariable regression was used to examine longitudinal associations between social participation and each physical performance measure. We also investigated whether change in social participation between 43 and 60-64 was associated with each outcome. RESULTS: In fully adjusted models, higher frequency of social participation at 43 was associated with faster chair rise (1.42 repetitions/min, 95% CI 0.45-2.39) and timed get-up-and-go speed (2.47 cm/s, 95% CI 0.27-4.67) and lower likelihood of self-report limitations (OR of low physical function 0.67, 95% CI 0.50-0.91) at 60-64 compared with low frequency. Better performance in objectively measured outcomes was observed only if higher social participation persisted over time whereas lower odds of self-reported limitations were found in all groups when compared to those with persistently low participation (ORs 0.43-0.56, all P≤0.02). CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that associations between higher levels of social participation in mid-life and better physical performance exist only if this social participation persists through to older age.

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