Psychological distress and quality of life in older persons: Relative contributions of fixed and modifiable risk factors

Joanna Atkins*, Sharon L. Naismith, Georgina M. Luscombe, Ian B. Hickie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Background: With a rapidly ageing population and increasing life expectancy, programs directed at improving the mental health and quality of life (QOL) of older persons are extremely important. This issue may be particularly relevant in the aged-care residential sector, where very high rates of depression and poor QOL are evident. This study aims to investigate the fixed and modifiable risk factors of psychological distress and QOL in a cohort of Australians aged 60 and over living in residential and community settings. Methods: The study examined the relationship between demographic, health and lifestyle factors and the outcome variables of self-reported QOL and psychological distress (K10 scores) based on data from 626 Australians aged 60 and over from the 45 and Up Study dataset. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses (performed on a subset of 496) examined risk factors related to psychological distress and QOL adjusting for age and residential status. Results: Significant psychological distress was experienced by 15% of the residential sample and 7% of the community sample and in multivariate analyses was predicted by older age, more functional limitations, more time spent sleeping and lower levels of social support (accounting for 18% of the variance). Poorer QOL was predicted by more functional limitations and greater levels of psychological distress. Together these variables accounted for 35% of the variance in QOL ratings. Conclusions: While psychological distress was more common in residential settings, programs targeting modifiable risk factors have the potential to improve QOL and reduce psychological distress in older persons living in both residential and community settings. In particular, promoting health and mobility, optimising sleep-wake cycles and increasing social support may reduce levels of psychological distress and improve QOL.

Original languageEnglish
Article number249
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Older persons
  • Psychological distress
  • Quality of life
  • Risk factors


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