Research Article| Volume 42, P113-121, February 2023

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Emotional and physical-related experiences as potential mechanisms linking physical activity and happiness: Evidence from the Ghana Aging, Health, Psychological Well-being, and Health-seeking Behavior Study

Published:January 03, 2023DOI:


      • Physical inactivity (PI) is significantly associated with lower levels of happiness.
      • The PI-happiness association is attenuated and mediated by pain, sleep problems, loneliness, anxiety, and boredom.
      • PI moderated the association of happiness with pain, social isolation, and boredom.
      • Reducing pain/emotional distress is vital for PI and subjective well-being in old age.


      This study examines the association between physical inactivity (PI) and happiness among Ghanaian older adults and whether emotional and physical-related experiences (EPE) mediate the association. Data from the Aging, Health, Psychological Well-being and Health-seeking Behavior Study (AgeHeaPsyWel–HeaSeeB) conducted in 2016-2018 among 1201 older Ghanaians were analyzed. Happiness was assessed with the self-rated and cross-culturally validated item on a 5-point scale. PI was evaluated with the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). Hierarchical linear regressions and mediation analyses were performed to estimate the hypothesized associations. Results showed that PI was significantly associated with lower levels of happiness (β = −0.053, p < .001) net of potential confounders. The association of PI with happiness was attenuated and fully mediated by pain, sleep problems, loneliness, anxiety, and boredom. Moreover, in terms of the cross-level interaction effects, PI moderated the happiness-pain (β = −0.029, p < .005), happiness-social isolation (β = −0.024, p < .05), and happiness-boredom (β = −0.023, p < .005) associations. Our data suggest that EPE may explain why PI decreases happiness in old age. Findings provide valuable insight into the interventions and decisions to improve subjective well-being and quality of life in old age.


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