Physical activity, participation and self-rated health among older community-dwelling Icelanders a population-based study

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå university

Abstract: Background: The main objective of this study was to investigate older people’s physical activity, their participation in various life situations, and their perceptions of their own health. This included an exploration of potential influences of urban versus rural residency on these outcomes, an evaluation of the measurement properties of a balance confidence scale, and an examination of the proposed usefulness of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) as a conceptual framework to facilitate analysis and understanding of selected outcomes.Methods: The study design was cross-sectional, population-based, with random selection from the national register of one urban and two rural municipalities in Northern Iceland. There were 186 participants, all community-dwelling, aged 65 to 88 years (mean = 73.8), and 48% of the group were women. The participation rate was 79%. Data was collected in 2004, in face-to-face interviews and through various standardized assessments. The main outcomes were total physical activity; leisure-time, household, and work-related physical activity; participation frequency and perceived participation restrictions; and self-rated health. Other assessments represented aspects of the ICF body functions, activities, environmental factors and personal factors. Moreover, Rasch analysis methods were applied to examine and modify the Activities-specific Balance Confidence (ABC) scale and the ICF used as a conceptual framework throughout the study.Results: The total physical activity score was the same for urban and rural people and the largest proportion of the total physical activity behavior was derived from the household domain. Rural females received the highest scores of all in household physical activity and rural males were more physically active than the others in the work-related domain. However, leisure-time physical activity was more common in urban than rural communities. A physically active lifestyle, urban living, a higher level of cognition, younger age, and fewer depressive symptoms were all associated with more frequent participation. Rural living and depressive symptoms were associated with perceived participation restrictions. Moreover, perceived participation restrictions were associated with not being employed and limitations in advanced lower extremity capacity. Both fewer depressive symptoms and advanced lower extremity capacity also increased the likelihood of better self-rated health, as did capacity in upper extremities, older age, and household physical activity. Rasch rating scale analysis indicated a need to modify the ABC to improve its psychometric properties. The modified ABC was then used to measure balance confidence which, however, was found not to play a major role in explaining participation or self-rated health. Finally, the ICF was useful as a conceptual framework for mapping various components of functioning and health and to facilitate analyses of their relationships.Conclusions: The results highlighted the commonalities and differences in factors associated with participation frequency, perceived participation restrictions, and self-rated health in old age. Some of these factors, such as advanced lower extremity capacity, depressive symptoms, and physical activity pattern should be of particular interest for geriatric physical therapy due to their potential for interventions. While the associations between depressive symptoms, participation, and self-rated health are well known, research is needed on the effects of advanced lower extremity capacity on participation and self-rated health in old age. The environment (urban versus rural) also presented itself as an important contextual variable to be aware of when working with older people’s participation and physically active life-style. Greater emphasis should be placed on using Rasch measurement methods for improving the availability of quality scientific measures to evaluate various aspects of functioning and health among older adults. Finally, a coordinated implementation of a conceptual framework such as ICF may further advance interdisciplinary and international studies on aging, functioning, and health.