Document Type


Date of Original Version



Background: A growing body of research shows that diet quality and physical activity (PA) are associated with health-related quality of life (HRQOL). However, no study to date has assessed this association using the Healthy Eating Index-2015 as a measure of diet quality. Furthermore, few studies have examined the association between PA dose and HRQOL among a nationally representative sample of older adults. Objectives: To investigate the relationship between diet quality, physical activity, and HRQOL.

Objectives: To investigate the relationship between diet quality, physical activity, and HRQOL.

Design: A cross-sectional analysis was conducted using data obtained from 5,311 adults aged 60+ years who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007 and 2014.

Measurements: HRQOL was assessed by general health status, and number of physically unhealthy days, mentally unhealthy days, and inactive days in past 30 days. Diet quality was assessed by the Healthy Eating Index-2015 using data generated by two 24-hour dietary recalls. PA was measured by the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire. Multivariate logistic/or linear regression models were used to examine the association between diet quality, PA and HRQOL controlling for confounders and accounting for complex sampling.

Results: Approximately half of the participants (55.2%) were women, 45.1% met current PA recommendations, 65% had less healthful diets according to the Healthy Eating Index-2015. Diet quality was associated with HROQL. For every 1-point diet quality score increase, the likelihood of respondents rating their general health as being excellent/good increased by 3% (OR=1.03, 95%CI: 1.02, 1.04), and number of inactive days (β =-0.03, 95%CI: -0.05, 0.00) and mental unhealthy days (β =-0.03, 95%CI: -0.05, -0.01) declined by 0.03 days. PA was associated with all HROQL measures and respondents with high PA levels reported better general health (OR=3.53, 95%CI: 2.69, 4.63), fewer inactive days (β =-1.53, 95%CI: -2.11, -0.95), fewer physical unhealthy days (β =-1.88, 95%CI: -2.74, -1.02) than individuals with low PA levels but not fewer mentally unhealthy days.

Conclusion: Among older adults in this study, eating a healthier diet and being physically active were associated with better general health and reporting fewer physical unhealthy days and inactive days. Study results provide valuable information that could inform policies, programs and interventions designed to improve HRQOL in older adults and reduce potentially preventable health disparities.


Furong Xu and Matthew J. Delmonico are from the Department of Kinesiology.

Steven A. Cohen and Mary L. Greaney are from the Health Studies program.

Ingrid E. Lofgren and Geoffrey W. Greene are from the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences.