Physical Activity as a Mediator Between Race/Ethnicity and Changes in Multimorbidity

Jason T. Newsom, Emily C. Denning, Miriam R. Elman, Anda Botoseneanu, Heather G. Allore, Corey L. Nagel, David A. Dorr, Ana R. Quiñones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Studies report racial/ethnic disparities in multimorbidity (≥2 chronic conditions) and their rate of accumulation over time as well as differences in physical activity. Our study aimed to investigate whether racial/ethnic differences in the accumulation of multimorbidity were mediated by physical activity among middle-aged and older adults. Method: We assessed racial/ethnic differences in the accumulation of multimorbidity (of 9 conditions) over 12 years (2004-2016) in the Health and Retirement Study (N = 18,264, mean age = 64.4 years). Structural equation modeling was used to estimate latent growth curve models of changes in multimorbidity and investigate whether the relationship of race/ethnicity (non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, non-Hispanic White participants) to changes in the number of chronic conditions was mediated by physical activity after controlling for age, sex, education, marital status, household wealth, insurance coverage, smoking, alcohol, and body weight. Results: There was a significant increase in multimorbidity over time. Initial levels and changes in multimorbidity over time varied significantly across individuals. Indirect effects of the relationship between race/ethnicity and changes in multimorbidity as mediated by physical activity were significant, consistent with the mediational hypothesis. Black respondents engaged in significantly lower levels of physical activity than White respondents after controlling for covariates, but there were no differences between Hispanic and White respondents once education was included. Discussion: These results provide important new information for understanding how modifiable lifestyle factors may help explain disparities in multimorbidity in mid-to-late life, suggesting greater need to intervene to reduce sedentary behavior and increase physical activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1529-1538
Number of pages10
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic illness
  • Disparities
  • Exercise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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