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

Amoolya Vusirikala*, Y. Ben-Shlomo, D. Kuh, M. Stafford, R. Cooper, G. S. Morgan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)986-992
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The MRC National Survey of Health and Development is funded by the UK Medical Research Council. D.K., M.S. and R.C. are supported by the UK Medical Research Council (programme codes MC_UU_12019/4 and MC_UU_12019/5). National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) have funded protected time to conduct this research. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care (DHCS).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved.


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