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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2000 Jul;55(4):S208-12.

Relationship of activity and social support to the functional health of older adults.

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  • 1Division of Health Behavior Research, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63108, USA.



According to J. W. Rowe and R. L. Kahn (1997), successful aging is the combination of low probability of disease, high functioning, and active engagement with life. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between active engagement with life and functioning in a convenience sample of community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older.


In this cross-sectional study, 244 members of an organization for older adults were mailed a survey containing the Activity Checklist and the Social Support Inventory as measures of engagement with life and the SF-12 Health Survey as a measure of functioning.


Hierarchical linear regression showed that maintenance of instrumental, social, and high-demand leisure activities was associated with higher physical health scores and maintenance of low-demand leisure activities was associated with lower physical health scores. Maintenance of low-demand leisure activities was associated with higher mental health scores.


If changes in potentially modifiable risk factors such as activity are associated with the beginning of functional decline, early intervention may be possible before disability ensues, thus reducing the risk of disability and ultimately health care costs.

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