Influence of Marital Status on Physical Activity Levels among Older Adults

PETTEE, KELLEY K.1; BRACH, JENNIFER S.1; KRISKA, ANDREA M.1; BOUDREAU, ROBERT1; RICHARDSON, CAROLINE R.2; COLBERT, LISA H.3; SATTERFIELD, SUZANNE4; VISSER, MARJOLEIN5; HARRIS, TAMARA B.6; AYONAYON, HILSA N.7; NEWMAN, ANNE B.1

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2006 - Volume 38 - Issue 3 - pp 541-546
doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000191346.95244.f7
BASIC SCIENCES: Epidemiology

Purpose: The purpose of these analyses was to describe the levels and types of activity in relationship to current marital status among older adults and determine if the physical activity level of the husband was related to the physical activity level of his wife.

Methods: Participants included 3075 well-functioning white and black men and women aged 70-79 yr with further examination of 345 spousal pairs. Marital status was self-reported and participants were grouped as married versus not married. Based on responses to a leisure-time questionnaire, total physical activity was calculated and participants were classified as low or high active. Descriptive statistics were used to describe level and proportions of type of activity by marital status. Logistic regression was used to determine if marital status was an important determinant of physical activity participation. Regression models were adjusted for demographics, body mass index (BMI), and chronic disease conditions.

Results: When compared with their single counterparts, married men reported higher median levels of exercise participation (P = 0.008) and married women reported higher levels of total (P < 0.0001) and nonexercise activity (P < 0.0001) with a trend toward higher exercise participation (P = 0.05). In spousal pairs, compared with men in the low active group, highly active men were almost three times as likely (OR = 2.97; 95% CI = 1.73, 5.10) to have a similarly active spouse. The model only modestly attenuated when adjusted for age, BMI, and health status of the husband [OR = 2.49 (1.41, 4.42)].

Conclusions: Marital status and spousal physical activity (PA) levels are important determinants for PA participation among older adults.

1University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; 2University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; 3University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; 4University of Tennessee, Memphis, TN; 5Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, NL; 6National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging; and 7University of California, San Francisco, CA

Address for correspondence: Kelley K. Pettee, MS, Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, 130 DeSoto Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261; E-mail: kkp1@pitt.edu.

Submitted for publication May 2005.

Accepted for publication September 2005.

©2006The American College of Sports Medicine