The Relationships Between Depressive Symptoms, Functional Health Status, Physical Activity, and the Availability of Recreational Facilities: a Rural-Urban Comparison in Middle-Aged and Older Chinese Adults

  • Yazhuo DengEmail author
  • David R. Paul



This study drew upon the ecological system theory to demonstrate rural-urban differences in the relationships between the availability of recreational facilities, physical activity (PA), functional health status, and depressive symptoms in middle-aged and older Chinese adults.


Nationally representative data (n = 5949) from the Chinese Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS, 2011–2013) were examined using the multigroup structural equation modeling approach.


The results suggest that higher availability of recreational facilities in the urban communities was associated with higher levels of leisure time physical activity (LTPA), better functional capacity, and less occurrence of depressive symptoms among urban participants. In contrast, LTPA engagement among rural participants was low and had negligible mitigating effects on functional decline and depressive symptoms. The findings also show that functional health status mediated the association between total PA and depressive symptoms in both rural and urban participants. However, high levels of total PA were directly associated with elevated depressive symptoms, suggesting that the context of PA and related socioeconomic factors might explain this association after the non-LTPA components were included.


The findings highlight how complex patterns of intrapersonal, behavioral, and environmental correlates influence depressive symptoms in middle-aged and older Chinese adults. The context of PA should be considered when creating targeted strategies to prevent depressive symptoms. As an inactive lifestyle evolves with China’s rapid urbanization, joint efforts from public health and urban planning should be made to promote LTPA and develop active living communities for achieving optimal health in later life.


Depressive symptoms Functional health status Physical activity Recreational facilities Multigroup structural equation modeling 



The authors thank the CHARLS research and field team and all respondents for their contributions.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Movement SciencesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA

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