Science University Research Symposium (SURS)

Title

The Impacts of Mental and Physical Health on Aging

Publication Date

2023

College

Sciences and Mathematics, College of

Department

Psychological Science, Department of

SURS Faculty Advisor

Dr. Michael Oliver

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

Over the last few decades, there has been a research emphasis on studying both risk and protective factors for abnormal aging. Risk factors increase one’s likelihood of developing a disease while protective factors antagonize that and decrease one’s likelihood of developing a disease. For example, physical activity has been shown to improve mental health (Craft & Perna, 2004). Meanwhile, a lack of physical activity can be a risk factor for both poor mental health and poor physical health long term, specifically in the older adult population (Blondell et al., 2014). Leisure time physical activity is recommended for all age groups, but as age increases, people begin to struggle more with disabilities, lack of time, lack of motivation, etc. that can keep them from regularly exercising. This study is designed to determine the impact that the amount of leisure time physical activity has on the mental health of older adults. We hypothesized that no leisure time physical activity and poor physical health would each correlate positively with poor mental health and with depression. We also hypothesized that no leisure time physical activity and poor physical health would positively correlate. Data were obtained from mySidewalk. mySidewalk is a platform that helps organize and share health data with the community. Specific variables of interest extracted from the database included: poor mental health among adults, diagnosed depression among adults, poor physical health among adults, and no leisure time physical activity level data. Data were aggregated at the county level. We found support for our hypotheses that poor physical health and low levels of leisure time physical activity both correlated positively with poor mental health. We also found that no leisure time physical activity correlated positively with poor physical health, which supported our other hypothesis. These results stress the importance of encouraging healthy behaviors and spreading awareness in regard to the various risk factors that can influence abnormal aging.

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