Depressive symptoms, but not moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, impacts sexual well-being and menopause-specific quality of life in middle-aged women

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Inadequate physical activity (PA), unhealthy weight status, prevalence of chronic conditions, and psychosocial distress are common in middle-aged women and are linked to reductions in well-being and quality of life. However, their potential interactive effects, specifically on sexual well-being and menopause-specific quality of life (MENQOL), have not been well characterized in postmenopausal women. PURPOSE: To determine if moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and adiposity (%Fat) influence sexual well-being and MENQOL outcomes, controlling for health status (chronic conditions; medications) and psychosocial well-being (depressive symptoms; perceived stress), in postmenopausal women. Postmenopausal women (n = 68, 58.6 ± 3.4 yr, 80.9 percent married/partnered, 51.5 percent overweight/obese, nonsmoking) were recruited through e-mail advertisements and flyers placed throughout the community. Participants were scheduled for two laboratory visits 7–10 days apart where they were objectively assessed for MVPA with accelerometers (in the interim), adiposity via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and self-report questionnaires to determine health status, depressive symptoms, perceived stress, sexual well-being, and MENQOL. Lower MVPA and higher %Fat were associated with lower physical domain MENQOL (both r =.27, p <.05); health status and psychosocial well-being were not associated (all p >.05). Hierarchical regression analyses revealed 1) greater number of chronic conditions and medications, and depressive symptoms scores predicted less favorable sexual well-being, independent of MVPA and %Fat (standardized β range =.22–.56, all p <.05), 2) depression was most consistently associated with MENQOL (models p ≤.001), and 3) greater adiposity augmented the negative influence of depression on the physical domain of MENQOL (β =.40. p =.002). CONCLUSIONS: PA may influence sexual well-being and MENQOL indirectly through positive impacts on adiposity, chronic conditions, and depressive symptoms in middle-aged postmenopausal women, a sector of the population often afflicted with compromised sexual well-being.

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Women and Health