Social activity in older persons slows motor function decline

August 25, 2009
RheumatologyNetwork Staff

The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine, The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine Vol 26 No 9, Volume 26, Issue 9

In older persons who do not have dementia, stroke, or Parkinson disease, a lower frequency of participation in social activity is associated with more rapid motor function decline. Conversely, participation in a broad spectrum of late-life activities results in positive health outcomes.

In older persons who do not have dementia, stroke, or Parkinson disease, a lower frequency of participation in social activity is associated with more rapid motor function decline. Conversely, participation in a broad spectrum of late-life activities results in positive health outcomes.

Buchman and colleagues collected data from 906 participants in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Older persons were assigned a social activity score based on how often they participated in 6 common social activities, such as volunteering or playing bingo. They also were asked how often they performed physical and cognitive activities, and they were evaluated for disability.

The most socially active participants had the best motor function. The association was strong: for each 1-point drop in social activity, motor function declined 33% faster than normal and the risk of death increased by more than 40%. The incidence of disability also escalated significantly as social activity waned. The net effect on the person was equivalent to aging 5 years. This relationship persisted, regardless of demographics.

The authors noted that public health interventions that emphasize leisure activities might help older persons stay healthier and reduce the burden of eldercare on society.