This research brief examines driving habits and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in an older population. The health-related quality of life is important in understanding the mental, social and physical well-being of individuals.
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This research used data from the AAA Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) study to examine driving habits and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in an older population. The health-related quality of life is important in understanding the mental, social and physical well-being of individuals. The Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS), which is a validated measuring tool used in the healthcare field to evaluate and monitor physical, mental, and social health in adults and children, was used to measure the human quality of life domains. Results found that driving reduction among older people was associated with increased fatigue and poorer physical functioning. By identifying the association between these driving habits and HRQOL, future driving intervention programs may target individuals sooner to prolong long-term mobility and safe driving practices.
LongROAD is a prospective multisite (San Diego, California; Denver, Colorado; Baltimore, Maryland; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Cooperstown, New York) cohort study with 2,990 drivers. Details on the study methods are outlined elsewhere (Li et al., 2017).
Three aspects of driving habits were analyzed: low mileage driving, self-reported driving space and crashes. Low mileage drivers were defined as those who drove fewer than 3,000 kilometers per year (Hakamies-Blomqvist et al., 2002; Langford, Methorst, & Hakamies-Blomqvist, 2006). Each participant’s annual driving mileage was calculated using GPS and accelerometer data. The Driving Habits Questionnaire (DHQ) obtained data on participants’ driving behaviors, which measured driving space (the distance a participant drove from their immediate neighborhood in the past three months). The DHQ also recorded the number of crashes a participant self-reported, which were analyzed as zero versus one or more crashes.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) PROMIS self-report measures were used for the following eight HRQOL domains: depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance, pain interference, pain intensity, physical functioning and ability to participate in social activities.
Certain driving habits (low mileage, less driving space and involvement in more crashes) were associated with participants experiencing less physical functioning and more pain, fatigue and depressive symptoms. However, there were only two relationships that were both statistically and large enough to be meaningful: fatigue and physical functioning and fatigue and low mileage (Yost et al., 2011; Lee et al., 2017). Older drivers who drive less than their counterparts were more likely to report increased fatigue and decreased physical functioning. These results are valuable because previous research has found certain driving habits (such as driving less frequently, fewer miles, and or distances) to be associated with mental health. Here we see that physical functioning measures are even more strongly associated with driving habits. This highlights the importance of older drivers maintaining good physical health and getting proper sleep in order to maintain their mobility. When signs of fatigue and poor physical functioning are identified, it is important to intervene with the older driver to make improvements in these areas associated with driving habits that may eventually lead to driving cessation.