Longitudinal associations between walking frequency and depressive symptoms in older adults: results from the VoisiNuAge study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2013 Dec;61(12):2072-2078. doi: 10.1111/jgs.12546. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Background: Cross-sectional studies show that walking is associated with depression among older adults, but longitudinal associations have rarely been examined. The aim of this study was to investigate longitudinal associations between walking frequency and depressive symptoms in older adults to determine which variable is the stronger prospective predictor of the other.

Design: Longitudinal; four repeated measures over 5 years.

Setting: Population-based sample of urban-dwelling older adults living in the Montreal metropolitan area.

Participants: Participants from the VoisiNuAge study aged 68 to 84 (N=498).

Main exposures: depressive symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale) and number of walking days in previous week (Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly). Covariates: age, education, and number of chronic illnesses. Cross-lagged panel analyses were performed in the entire sample and in sex-stratified subsamples.

Results: Depressive symptoms predicted walking frequency at subsequent time points (and more precisely, higher depressive symptoms were related to fewer walking days), but walking frequency did not predict depressive symptoms at subsequent time points. Stratified analyses revealed that prospective associations were statistically significant in women but not men.

Conclusion: The longitudinal association between walking frequency and depressive symptoms is one in which depressive symptoms predict reduced walking frequency later. Higher depressive symptoms are more likely a cause of reduced walking because of time precedence than vice versa. Future research on longitudinal relationships between meeting physical activity recommendations and depression are warranted.

Keywords: aged; depression; longitudinal studies; motor activity; walking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Urban Population
  • Walking*