OBJECTIVES To investigate type and load of productive activities as potential determinants of mental health and well-being in elderly persons with a physical disability.
METHODS We used data from a Swiss population-based sample of 314 adults at or past the legal retirement age (65 for men, 64 for women) who live with a chronic physical disability, spinal cord injury. Engagement in housework, volunteering, and paid work were dichotomized (no; some engagement) and three groups of engagement types were constructed (none; housework only; volunteering and/or paid work). Load of engagement was appraised using a sumscore on the overall frequency as well as the total number of performed activities. We used regression modelling to draw causal inference regarding the associations of type and load of engagement with general mental health (Mental Health Inventory, SF-36), self-reported depression (Self-Administered Comorbidity Questionnaire, SCQ), and well-being (WHOQoL-BREF items).
RESULTS Engagement in volunteering was positively related to well-being. Persons engaged only in housework reported better well-being and lower prevalence of depression than non-engaged persons, however, persons engaged in volunteering or paid work reported the highest well-being and the lowest prevalence of depression. The productivity sumscore tertiles and the number of performed activities were both positively linked to well-being and negatively linked to depression, while their association with general mental health was less pronounced.
CONCLUSION Strengthening the engagement in productive activities among the elderly with a chronic physical disability is suggested as a promising strategy to promote well-being and reduce the prevalence of depression.