UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


The Association Between Midlife Physical Activity and Depressive Symptoms in Late Life: Age Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine; Meyers Primary Care Institute

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Geriatrics | Mental Disorders


BACKGROUND: There is little evidence on the long-term association between physical activity (PA) and depressive symptoms in old age. We examined the association of midlife PA and depressive symptoms in late life.

METHODS: A large community-based population residing in Reykjavik, Iceland, participated in a longitudinal study with an average of 25 years of follow up. Midlife PA was categorized as active and inactive groups (n = 4,140, Active = 1,292, Inactive = 2,848, mean age 52+/-7 years). The main outcome had six or higher depressive symptoms assessed by the 15-item Geriatric Depression scale. Participants who had a history of depression (n = 226), and were diagnosed with dementia (n = 393), and had incomplete cognitive data (n = 595) and incomplete analytical data (n = 422) were excluded. Level of weekly PA was ascertained by a questionnaire at midlife. Depressive symptoms were assessed on average 25 (+/-4) years later.

RESULTS: After controlling for demographic and health-related risk factors, those who were active at midlife were less likely to have high level of depressive symptomatology (6 or higher Geriatric Depression scale scores, odds ratio = 0.58, 95% confidence interval: 0.41-0.83, p < .005) compared with those who were inactive in midlife. After full adjustment of three domains of late-life cognitive function the results remained significant (odds ratio = 0.61, 95% confidence interval: 0.43-0.86, p = .005).

CONCLUSION: Our study shows that midlife PA is associated with lower depressive symptoms 25 years later. Participating in regular PA in midlife may improve mental health in late life.


Aging, Cognitive function., Depressive symptomatology, Mid-life physical activity

DOI of Published Version



J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Nov 2. pii: glv196. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences

PubMed ID