Two sides of the same coin? Association of variety and frequency of activity with cognition

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25 Scopus citations


The majority of research focused on activity engagement and cognition in older adulthood uses frequency of engagement as the primary metric. Another option is the variety of activities. Carlson et al. (2012) found evidence that a greater variety of activity was protective against cognitive impairment over and above weighted frequency of engagement, suggesting that there may be something unique about activity diversity. The present study compared variety and frequency of activity estimated across 2 different time frames regarding their association with cognitive performance. Community-dwelling participants 60-91 years of age (M = 70.36; n = 199) reported their participation in 57 activities over the past 2 years and logged their daily activities for 1 week. Frequency and variety of activity over 2 years, and across the week were calculated. Structural equation models showed that the frequency indices had a greater number of significant activity factors, and minimally stronger links with the 3 cognitive factors compared to variety of activity. Frequency had stronger associations with cognition for both the 2-year and daily activity estimates, but greater explained variance was only evident when activity was estimated over the past two years. The overall pattern of results was similar for both variety and frequency of activity, highlighting the strong overlap between the 2 indices. Our results support the conclusion that frequency and variety of engagement have similar associations with cognition, and that the most active individuals also have the most diverse engagement. Therefore, a variety index may be sufficient when collecting activity data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-466
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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