Greater activity diversity is associated with better health and well-being, but the daily activity of U.S. adults has become less diverse, according to a study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences. The study, conducted by Soomi Lee, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Aging Studies, and co-authors Rachel Koffer, PhD, and Johanna Drewelies, PhD, examined differences in activity diversity between cohorts of adults separated by 18 years (the first cohort in 1995-1996 and the second in 2013-2014).
Activity diversity in this study is defined as variety and evenness of engagement in daily activity. For example, a person whose day includes paid work, leisure, physical activity, social events, and volunteering with a similar frequency would have a higher activity diversity score than a person who spends most of their time in only paid work.
This research shows that people’s lifestyles have become less diverse compared to nearly two decades ago, particularly among those 55 years of age and older. The findings challenge assumptions that modern life is more novel and fulfilling than in the past and raises concern as lower activity diversity reflects a less active and a restricted lifestyle that does not support health and well-being.
“This alarms us because daily activities play an important role in gauging adults’ health and well-being, including functional independence, social interactions, and cognitive stimulation,” Lee said. “We must promote activity diversity in older adults to better support healthy aging.”
Lee says that the reported lower activity diversity of the more recent cohort of adults may relate to historical shifts in financial insecurity, such as the economic recession of 2008. In addition, changes in our reliance on technology, which reduces the amount of time spent in activities necessary to perform social and professional roles; decreased structure in daily life; and increased stress may have played a role in a lower diversity of daily activity.
The full study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.