Researchers from Australia have discovered that older adults who experienced any level of psychological distress were four times more likely to have functional limitations than those who did not.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researcher Gregory Kolt, Ph.D., of the University of Western Sydney, School of Science and Health, analyzed data from nearly 100,000 Australian men and women aged 65 and older. Information was sought on self-reported physical activity, physical function, psychological distress, age, smoking history, education, height, and weight.

Psychological distress scores determined by researchers indicated that 8.4 percent of older adult participants were experiencing some level of psychological distress.

Older adults who experienced a moderate level of psychological distress were the most likely group to experience a functional limitation — almost seven times more likely than those who did not report psychological distress.

Psychological distress has previously been linked to reduced physical activity and increased functional limitation across a range of age groups, the researchers note.

A separate study showed that approximately 30 percent of reductions in physical activity, and increases in psychological distress over time are due to functional limitations and chronic health problems.

“Our findings can influence the emphasis that we place on older adults to remain active,” Kolt notes. “With greater levels of physical activity, more positive health gains can be achieved, and with greater physical function through physical activity, greater independence can be achieved.”

Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Elderly couple with bikes photo by shutterstock.