Characteristics of samples
Between 52 and 54% of each sample comprised women. While 91% (363) of the Ethnibus sample were aged 65 < 75 (in reflection of the younger age distributions of ethnic populations in Britain), 55% (326) of the ONS Omnibus sample, and 17% of the QoL follow-up sample, were aged 65 < 75. The remainder were aged 75+. Few (5%/19) of Ethnibus respondents lived alone; almost half of the ONS and QoL follow-up samples lived alone (48%/286 and 49%/137 respectively). Few ONS Omnibus, and no QoL follow-up sample, respondents were ethnic minorities. Over half of each sample rated their health from ‘Good’ to ‘Excellent’ rather than ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’; although fewer Ethnibus respondents did so, despite their younger ages. Almost three-quarters of Ethnibus respondents’ OPQOL scores were in the worst two categories (poor QoL), compared with under half of the other samples (please see tables in Appendices 4–5 in the supplementary data on the journal website http:/www.ageing.oxfordjournals.org/).
The most common definition of active ageing given was exercising the body. ONS respondents (33%/192) and QoL follow-up survey respondents (26%/75) were most likely to mention this, while Ethnibus respondents (17%/67) were least likely to (chi-square: 30.96, 2df, P < 0.0001). Having good health/physical functioning was next most commonly mentioned—fewer (7%/27) Ethnibus respondents mentioned this, compared with ONS (22%/130) and QoL follow-up (27%/22) respondents (chi-square: 56.13, 2df, P < 0.0001). Keeping/staying physically active by moving about was mentioned by fewer Ethnibus respondents (5%/21), compared with 22% (461) of ONS and 19% (55) QoL follow-up respondents (chi-square: 600.92, 2df, P < 0.0001). Exercising the mind was mentioned by 3% (397) of Ethnibus respondents, compared with 12% (68) of ONS and 14% (39) QoL follow-up respondents (chi-square: 46.84, 2df, P < 0.0001). However, having psychological resources (e.g. being in control)/attitudes (e.g. positive thinking) was mentioned by more Ethnibus (15%/59) than ONS (7%/39) and QoL follow-up (8%/23) respondents (chi-square: 19.27, 2df, P < 0.0001). (Please see Appendix 6 in the supplementary data on the journal website http:/www.ageing.oxfordjournals.org/.)
The samples varied by whether they undertook activities to maintain active ageing. While over 80% in each sample reported engaging in three or more social activities in the past month, just under a third of ONS Omnibus and QoL follow-up survey respondents reported engaging in physical activities, although just under two-thirds of Ethnibus respondents reported that they did so. This difference was due to the Ethnibus sample reporting doing more activities such as yoga and meditation. When asked specifically about going for a walk or gardening in the last month, significantly fewer—about a quarter—of Ethnibus respondents reported this, compared with about three-quarters of the others (see earlier table in Appendix 4).
Few, 40% (158), Ethnibus respondents, rated themselves as ageing ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ actively (as opposed to ‘not’ or ‘not at all’ actively, or ‘neither’). In contrast, 85% (494) and 78% (212) of the ONS Omnibus and QoL follow-up respondents, respectively, did so (chi-square test 100.66, two degrees of freedom, P < 0.0001).
As expected, correlations showed that self-ratings of more optimum levels of active ageing were associated with more optimal QoL. In the Ethnibus, ONS Omnibus and QoL follow-up samples, respectively, Spearman's rho correlations between self-rated active ageing and the total scores for the OPQOL were modest to strong at −0.358, −0.504 and −0.575 (all P < 0.001). In the Ethnibus, ONS Omnibus samples, respectively, the Spearman's rho correlations between self-rated active ageing and the total scores for the CASP-19 were modest at −0.241 and −0.469 (both P < 0.01), and for the WHOQOL-OLD were weak to modest: −0.069 (not significant) and −0.439 (P < 0.01) (the inverse correlations reflect the direction of coding, and are all in the expected direction of more optimum active ageing being associated with more optimum QoL).
Higher levels of self-rated active ageing were weakly to moderately correlated with more optimal health and physical functioning in each sample; and with more social support in the ONS Omnibus and QoL follow-up samples, but not Ethnibus sample. The greater number of different social activities undertaken in the last month was moderately to strongly correlated with more active ageing in the ONS Omnibus and QoL follow-up samples. Additional items asked in the longitudinal, QoL follow-up survey (for comparison with baseline items) show that greater levels of self-rated active ageing correlated moderately with younger subjective age, lower health service use, higher self-efficacy and reduced loneliness (please see tables in Appendices 7–9 in the supplementary data on the journal website http:/www.ageing.oxfordjournals.org/). Detailed analyses of the Ethnibus sample showed that Chinese people were far more likely to rate themselves as ageing ‘very actively’: 27% (12), compared with 9% (11) of Pakistani people, 6% (5) of Caribbean people and 5% (7) of Indian people (chi-square 31.158, 12 degrees of freedom, P < 0.01).
Resourcefulness for active ageing was examined in the older, QoL follow-up sample, who were asked an open-ended question about coping with challenges in older age. Most (64%, 184) reported methods of coping, mainly relating to their psychological outlook (acceptance of situations, ‘getting on with life’, keeping a sense of humour) (23%, 67); keeping socially active (15%, 44); seeking help, support and advice from others when needed (14%, 39); self-compensating (e.g. doing thing that are difficult more slowly; using strategies to aid declining memory; using different techniques for physical activities to avoid pain) (11%, 33); paying other people to do things they could no longer do (8%, 22), and ‘using/not being ashamed to use’ gadgets, aids, rails, walking sticks) (5%,13). When asked about how other people could be helped to age actively, their most common responses were engaging in social (27%, 76) and physical (9%, 27) activity; access to good transport (9%, 27); and having a positive psychological attitude/outlook (9%, 25);
Comparable multivariable analyses were conducted for each of the three survey samples presented here, in order to examine independent associations with self-rated active ageing. It was hypothesised that more active ageing would be associated with optimum levels of QoL; informal help, social activities; physical functioning (activities of daily living-–ADL) and health, controlling for age, sex, marital status, housing tenure.
Table shows that optimal QoL (OPQOL only) was independently associated with more active ageing in the Ethnibus sample. The model explained 17% of the variance in self-rated active ageing (R2 = 0.169). The comparable model for the ONS Omnibus sample explained 41% of the variance (R2 = 0.414) (Table ); more optimal QoL (OPQOL only) was independently associated with more active ageing; also associated were greater social activity, good physical functioning, better health and housing tenure (owner occupied rather than rented). Table shows the cross-sectional model for the QoL follow-up sample, which explained 55% of the variance in self-rated active ageing (R2 = 0.550). More optimum QoL (OPQOL) was associated with more active ageing, as were greater social activity, better physical functioning and health.
Multiple regression of independent associations with self-rated active ageing+ETHNIBUS sample
Multiple regression of independent associations with self-rated active ageing+ONS sample
Hierarchical multiple regression of independent associations with self-rated active ageing: QoL follow-up sample (cross-sectional model)
The QoL follow-up survey sample was used to examine a longitudinal model of active ageing. Optimal levels of baseline QoL, health and functioning were significantly associated with more active ageing at follow-up; the model explained 54% of the variance (adjusted R2 = 0.544). When follow-up variables were entered, none of the baseline variables retained significance. Optimum levels of follow-up QoL (OPQOL), health, functioning, and social participation were associated with more active ageing at follow-up, explaining almost two-thirds of the variance in follow-up self-rated active ageing (adjusted R2 = 0.639) (see Table ).
Hierarchical multiple regression of baseline (1999–2000) and follow-up (2007–8) variables: independent associations with self-rated active ageing: QoL follow-up sample (longitudinal model)