An examination of the relationships between lifestyle factors and mental health among Australian midlife and older women

Xu, Qunyan (2010) An examination of the relationships between lifestyle factors and mental health among Australian midlife and older women. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Background It is well known that lifestyle factors including overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol use are largely related with morbidity and mortality of chronic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The effect of lifestyle factors on people’s mental health who have a chronic disease is less defined in the research. The World Health Organisation has defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. It is important, therefore to develop an understanding of the relationships between lifestyle and mental health as this may have implications for maximising the efficacy of health promotion in people with chronic diseases. Objectives The overall aim of the research was to examine the relationships between lifestyle factors and mental health among Australian midlife and older women. Methodology The current research measured four lifestyle factors including weight status, physical activity, smoking and alcohol use. Three interconnecting studies were undertaken to develop a comprehensive understanding of the relationships between lifestyle factors and mental health. Study 1 investigated the longitudinal effect of lifestyle factors on mental health by using midlife and older women randomly selected from the community. Study 2 adopted a cross-sectional design, and compared the effect of lifestyle factors on mental health between midlife and older women with and without diabetes. Study 3 examined the mediating effect of self-efficacy in the relationships between lifestyle factors and mental health among midlife and older women with diabetes. A questionnaire survey was chosen as the means to gather information, and multiple linear regression analysis was conducted as the primary statistical approach. Results The research showed that the four lifestyle factors including weight status, physical activity, smoking and alcohol use did impact on mental health among Australian midlife and older women. First, women with a higher BMI had lower levels of mental health than women with normal weight, but as women age, the mental health of women who were overweight and obese becomes better than that of women with normal weight. Second, women who were physically active had higher levels of mental health than those who were not. Third, smoking adversely impacted on women’s mental health. Finally, those who were past-drinkers had less anxiety symptoms than women who were non-drinkers as they age. Women with diabetes appeared to have lower levels of mental health compared to women without. However, the disparities of mental health between two groups were confounded by low levels of physical activity and co-morbidities. This finding underlines the effect of physical activity on women’s mental health, and highlights the potential of reducing the gap of mental health by promoting physical activity. In addition, self-efficacy was shown to be the mediator of the relationships between BMI, physical activity and depression, suggesting that enhancing people’s self-efficacy may be useful for mental health improvement. Conclusions In conclusion, Australian midlife and older women who live with a healthier lifestyle have higher levels of mental health. It is suggested that strategies aiming to improve people’s mental health may be more effective if they focus on enhancing people’s self-efficacy levels. This study has implications to both health education and policy development. It indicates that health professionals may need to consider clients’ mental health as an integrated part of lifestyle changing process. Furthermore, given that lifestyle factors impact on both physical and mental health, lifestyle modification should continue to be the focus of policy development.

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ID Code: 43715
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Anderson, Debra & Courtney, Mary
Keywords: lifestyle factors, BMI, smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, mental health, anxiety, depression, midlife and older women, diabetes, longitudinal
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 28 Jul 2011 05:49
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2011 05:49

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