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Physical activity and loneliness among adults aged 50 years or older in six low- and middle-income countries

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Davy Vancampfort, Elvira Lara, Lee Smith, Simon Rosenbaum, Joseph Firth, Brendon Stubbs, Mats Hallgren, Ai Koyanagi

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1855-1864
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

King's Authors


Introduction: Loneliness is widespread and associated with deleterious outcomes in middle-aged and older age people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Physical activity is one potential psychosocial strategy with the potential to reduce loneliness in this population. Thus, the aim of this study was to explore associations between physical activity (PA) and loneliness in middle-aged and older people from six LMICs. Materials and methods: Data from the Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) were analyzed. Self-reported data on loneliness and PA (as assessed by the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire) were collected. Participants were dichotomized into those who do and do not meet the international recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous PA per week. Associations between loneliness and PA were examined using logistic regressions. Results: Among 34 129 individuals aged 50 years or older, the prevalence of loneliness was higher among those not meeting the PA guidelines in all countries, although this difference was not significant in Mexico and South Africa. After full adjustment, not meeting PA guidelines was positively associated with loneliness in the meta-analysis based on country-wise estimates, with a moderate level of between-country heterogeneity being observed (OR = 1.31; 95% CI, 1.07-1.61; I2 = 48.7%). At an individual country level, statistical significance was only reached in Ghana (OR = 1.89; 95% CI = 1.44-2.49). Discussion: Our data suggest that physical inactivity and loneliness commonly co-occur in adults aged 50 years or older in LMICs overall but that this association differs by country. Longitudinal studies are required to confirm these findings and investigate potential mechanisms that may inform future interventions.

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