Social experiences predicting physical activity behaviours and psychological wellbeing in older adults


There is limited research exploring the predictive relationships between older adults' social experiences, physical activity (PA), and psychological wellbeing (PWB). The current study investigated the relative strength of seven social experiences (descriptive and injunctive norms, size of social network, social participation, social connection, and quality and amount of social support) as predictors of PA (moderate-to-vigorous) and PWB (stress and affect) among older adults. It was hypothesized that higher ratings of social experiences would predict greater average weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), lower perceived stress, greater positive affect, and lower negative affect. This study involved baseline data from 829 adults aged 55-86 years who completed social experiences, PA, and PWB questionnaires as part of a 6-month online study. The sample was 75% women, 91% White, and 62% retired. Multiple regression models with age (years) included as a covariate were conducted. All regression models were significant: MVPA (F (8,660) = 6.62, R2 = .06, p < .001), perceived stress (F (8,783) = 23.27, R2 = .18, p < .001), positive affect (F (8,781) = 49.16, R2 = .33, p < .001), and negative affect (F (8,781) = 23.56, R2 = .19, p < .001). Social participation significantly predicted all outcome variables of interest (ß = -.20-.43, p < .001). Satisfaction with social support quality significantly predicted perceived stress and negative affect (ß = -.15, p < .05). Findings suggest higher ratings of social experiences may be positively associated with PA and PWB and are particularly important for understanding PWB among older adults.

Acknowledgments: Funding source: Brawn Family Foundation