266244 Environment, Self-Regulation, and Health Behavior in Older Adults

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 9:06 AM - 9:18 AM

Sarah Godby, MA , Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Ann C. Klassen, PhD , Department of Community Health and Prevention, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA
Michelle C. Carlson, PhD , Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Jonathan Pollak , Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS , Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Changing the environmental context of health behavior is a priority in industrialized countries, where the built environment (BE) can 1) make healthy behavior difficult to perform and/or 2) emphasize short-term benefits of unhealthy behaviors over long-term benefits of healthy ones. Recent theory hypothesizes that in such environments, individuals must exercise greater self-regulation to make good long-term choices. This may be especially important in older populations, as aging is associated with less mobility—increasing the importance of neighborhood environment—and lower cognitive and self-regulatory resources.

This research uses behavioral, environmental, and cognitive data from 976 older adults in the Baltimore Memory Study (2001-2003) to examine the association of BE and self-regulation resources with health behavior among older adults. Mean age of participants was 60.7 years; 66% were female, 41% were African-American, and 55% were white. Preliminary analyses estimate that 16% of participants had a good diet according to Healthy Eating Index guidelines, 19% were current smokers, 73% were non/moderate drinkers, and 38% participated in brisk walking ≥1.5 hours/week. Higher levels of executive function (EF), a self-regulation proxy, were associated with healthier behavior (p<0.001) for all behaviors except brisk walking; those with higher EF were less likely to participate in brisk walking (p<0.001).

We will present findings from an analysis of respondent neighborhoods and multilevel modeling of the BE/EF interaction on health behaviors to investigate whether greater self-regulation resources are associated with healthier behavior in unsupportive environments. Findings may inform efforts to better structure environments to facilitate healthy choices for older adults.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe characteristics of the built environment that are associated with healthy behaviors in older adults. 2. Describe the interaction between built environment and self-regulation and health behaviors in older adults. 3. Assess whether higher levels of executive function are associated with healthy behaviors among older adults in unsupportive environments.

Keywords: Behavioral Research, Environment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a PhD student at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and conducted this research as part of my dissertation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.