New study to examine social connectedness and physical activity in ageing

Published 13th June 2022

A new project led by Prof Sharon Simpson and Dr Emily Long will explore how positive social connections and being active can prevent declining health as we age. This work will bring together existing evidence, experiences and perspectives of older adults and others in understanding priorities for healthy, connected and active ageing. 

Loneliness and lack of social connections among older adults have been identified as major risk factors for chronic illness, poor mental health outcomes and mortality. Despite the well-known health benefits of keeping active, physical activity declines with age, and people over 60 are the most inactive of any age group. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its associated social distancing and shielding, has led to reduced physical activity, cognitive decline and increased loneliness. In addition, people living in deprived communities have the greatest needs but are often excluded from support through lower health literacy, financial limitations and reduced local services.

Dr Emily Long said: “We are excited to work directly with community partners to understand what is important to people as they age. Older adults are often left out of the research process, or have decisions regarding their health made for them – we very much want to engage with older adults from the outset and make sure their voices are heard in this project.”

This project involves researchers from the Unit’s Complexity, Relationships, Inequalities and Places programmes to complete four overlapping sub-studies, laying the foundation for intervention development work undertaken towards the end of 2024-25. The primary data collection will take place in two local authorities - South Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire.

You can visit the project’s webpage to find out more.


First published: 13 June 2022

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