Differences in Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Mental Health of the Older Population in South Korea Based on Marital Status and Gender

Jeong Hui Park, Tyler Prochnow, Christina Amo, Laurel Curran, Matthew Lee Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The primary purpose of the present study was to assess differences in physical activity (PA), sedentary behavior (SB), and mental health (i.e., depression, suicidal thoughts, and cognitive function) by marital status (i.e., married and widowed) within an aging population in South Korea. PA, SB, and mental health were evaluated in 9092 older adults by comparing the married group (n = 5773, 73.2 ± 5.9 years, 63.5%) to the widowed group (n = 3319, 75.8 ± 6.8 years, 36.5%). Between-group differences in PA, SB, depression, and cognitive function were tested using independent t-tests, and the association between marital status and gender was evaluated using two-way ANOVA. Suicidal thoughts were analyzed using a Mann–Whitney U-test. Older adults in the widowed group participated in significantly less PA (p < 0.001) and had higher SB (p < 0.001) per week, especially the widows, who had significantly less PA (p < 0.01) and had higher SB (p < 0.001) compared to married women. Participants in the widowed group experienced more depression (p < 0.001) and suicidal thoughts (p < 0.001) and had significantly lower cognitive function compared to participants in the married group (p < 0.001). Between the two groups, widowers were more vulnerable to all mental health factors compared to those in the married group. At the same time, widows were only more vulnerable to depression and cognitive function compared to women in the married group. Findings indicated that the presence of a spouse is strongly associated with higher PA levels, lower SB, and better mental health among older adults. Spouses are the primary social supports and play a major role in the health and emotional well-being of the aging population. Given the importance of the spouse, our study suggests that health educators working with older widows should prioritize several different forms of social support to benefit their physical and mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1726
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 18 2023


  • gender
  • health behavioral factors
  • marriage
  • physical activity
  • widowed adults
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Marital Status
  • Exercise
  • Republic of Korea/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Aged
  • Sedentary Behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Differences in Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Mental Health of the Older Population in South Korea Based on Marital Status and Gender'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this