Physical capability and subsequent positive mental wellbeing in older people: findings from five HALCyon cohorts

Rachel Cooper, Mai Stafford, Rebecca Hardy, Avan Aihie Sayer, Yoav Ben-Shlomo, Cyrus Cooper, Leone Craig, Ian J. Deary, John Gallacher, Geraldine McNeill, John M. Starr, Diana Kuh, Catharine R. Gale, on behalf of the HALCyon study team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective measures of physical capability are being used in a growing number of studies as biomarkers of healthy ageing. However, very little research has been done to assess the impact of physical capability on subsequent positive mental wellbeing, the maintenance of which is widely considered to be an essential component of healthy ageing. We aimed to test the associations of grip strength and walking, timed get up and go and chair rise speeds (assessed at ages 53 to 82 years) with positive mental wellbeing assessed using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) 5 to 10 years later. Data were drawn from five British cohorts participating in the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course research collaboration. Data from each study were analysed separately and then combined using random-effects meta-analyses. Higher levels of physical capability were consistently associated with higher subsequent levels of wellbeing; for example, a 1SD increase in grip strength was associated with an age and sex-adjusted mean difference in WEMWBS score of 0.81 (0.25, 1.37), equivalent to 10 % of a standard deviation (three studies, N = 3,096). When adjusted for body size, health status, living alone, socioeconomic position and neuroticism the associations remained albeit attenuated. The finding of these consistent modest associations across five studies, spanning early and later old age, highlights the importance of maintaining physical capability in later life and provides additional justification for using objective measures of physical capability as markers of healthy ageing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-456
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Early online date2 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • physical capability
  • positive mental wellbeing
  • grip strength
  • walking speed
  • chair rise time


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