depressive symptoms

A new longitudinal study examines the positive effects of physical activity on nursing home residents’ depressive symptoms over time.


Depression is particularly prevalent amongst nursing home residents, as problems with physical health, cognitive function, necessity of care, and mortality abound in nursing home ecology. Evidence suggests that individuals may combat depressive symptoms with physical activity. Enhancing physical activity works to stabilize mood and ultimately decrease depression in nursing home residents by addressing three primary causes of depressive symptoms at the biological, psychological, and social levels.

Recently, Aging & Mental Health (2017) published the results of a longitudinal study which used a generalized linear mixed-model approach to analyze data from the Long-Term Care in Motion (LTCMo) study. This study was based on 83 participating residents of two nursing homes located in Heidelberg, Germany, over the course of one year. Researchers applied a longitudinal design to track and analyze the overall efficacy of the implementation of the active intervention (increased physical activity) program.

Including a baseline assessment three months prior to program implementation, research staff conducted assessments every three months by interviewing nursing home residents to obtain measurements of psychosocial factors and physical status. Over time, the generalized linear mixed-model results showed a trend in which nursing home residents undergoing increased physical activity experienced significantly fewer depressive symptoms than those who were not. Patterns indicated that residents who did not participate in regular physical activity actually experienced an increase in depressive symptoms as time passed.

While multiple factors influence incidence of depression in nursing home residents, this study demonstrates encouraging data which suggests that individuals may combat depressive symptoms with physical activity. Exercise offers biological benefits, social contact with trainers and other nursing home residents, as well as psychological benefits accompanying agency through choice of activities and physical accomplishments.

Further study is required to determine the most effective methods of implementation for exercise programs in various nursing home or assisted living facilities. As Diegelmann et al. (2017) highlights, it is important to understand the existing hierarchical structures and institutional activities within each facility in order to ensure the successful integration of beneficial programs promoting increased physical activity and psychosocial care.


Written By: Jennifer Newton

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