Does the association between leisure activities and survival in old age differ by living arrangement?

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Government policies to promote ageing in place have led to a growing frail population living at home in advanced old age, many of whom live alone. Living alone in old age is associated with adverse health outcomes, but we know little about whether it moderates the health impact of other risk and protective factors. Engagement in leisure activities is considered critical to successful ageing. We investigated whether the association between different types of leisure activities and survival in non-institutionalised older adults (aged 76 and above) differs by living arrangement and gender.


We used the Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old study from 2011 and the Swedish Cause of Death Register (until 30 June 2014) to conduct Cox regression analyses (n=669). Incident mortality was 30.2% during the follow-up period.


Overall level of leisure activity was not significantly associated with survival in either living arrangement, but some specific leisure activities, and associations, were different across gender and living arrangement. More specifically, certain social activities (participation in organisations and having relatives visit) were associated with longer survival, but only in men living alone. In women, most results were statistically non-significant, with the exception of solving crosswords being associated with longer survival in women living with someone.


In order to facilitate engagement with life, interventions focusing on leisure activities in the oldest age groups should take gender and living arrangement into consideration when determining the type of activity most needed.

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