An instrument to measure engagement in life: Factor analysis and associations with sociodemographic, health and cognition measures

Ruth A. Parslow*, Anthony F. Jorm, Helen Christensen, Andrew Mackinnon

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: It has been proposed that active engagement with life may protect against cognitive decline. However, existing instruments for measuring life engagement have covered limited domains. Objective: To present a new instrument to measure engagement with life; the RIASEC Activities List draws on activities categorised according to interest categories previously developed by Holland: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional (RIASEC). Methods: Participants in a longitudinal, community-based survey were drawn from 3 age groups: 2,404 participants aged 20-24; 2,530 aged 40-44, and 2,551 aged 60-64 years. They provided information on which of 54 selected activities they had performed in the 6 months prior to their survey interview. Other information obtained from participants included measures of sociodemographic characteristics, personality attributes and mental and physical health. Two measures of cognition were also examined. Analyses were conducted separately for men and women in each of the 3 age groups. Results: Confirmatory factor analyses identified six scales of activity types corresponding to Holland's six interest categories. The number of activities of any type undertaken in the past 6 months was significantly associated with cognitive measures, better physical health, and better mental health although these findings varied for men and women across the 3 age groups. Further, for both men and women in all age groups, performing activities of any type was associated with having higher extraversion and mastery scores, and lower levels of neuroticism. Associations were also found between performing specific types of activities and cognitive measures. Conclusions: This instrument has the potential to identify more clearly types of activities that may offer cognitive benefits and warrants further testing in longitudinal studies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)188-198
    Number of pages11
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


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