Perceived control relates to better functional health and lower cardio-metabolic risk: The mediating role of physical activity

Frank J. Infurna, Denis Gerstorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of the current study was to examine empirically associations between perceived control and indicators of functional health (grip strength) and cardio-metabolic risk (hemoglobin A1C, High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol [HDL-C], Systolic Blood Pressure [SBP], Pulse Rate [PR], and Waist Circumference [WC]) and to explore the mediating role of physical activity. Method: Using cross-sectional data from the nation-wide Health and Retirement Study (N=4,292; Mean age=68, range 50-97; 59% women), we examined whether perceived control was predictive of the various health indicators over and above sociodemographic characteristics. We also used mediation models to test whether those direct associations were mediated by physical activity. Results: Findings indicated that perceiving more control related to better grip strength and lower cardio-metabolic risk. To illustrate, a 1 SD increase in control is associated with 2.5 fewer years of aging on grip strength, 10 fewer years of aging for hemoglobin A1C, 14.5 fewer years of aging for HDL-C, 3.7 fewer years of aging for pulse rate, and 5.75 fewer years of aging for waist circumference. We also found that physical activity mediated five of the six control-health associations. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate the importance of perceived control as predictor of functional and physiological health and the role of physical exercise as a behavioral mediator of these associations. Our results suggest that control may serve as a facilitator of positive health outcomes, including functional health, cardio-metabolic risk, and physical activity. Findings provide impetus for future research to elucidate mechanisms underlying the health implications of perceived control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-94
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Adulthood and old age
  • Biomarkers
  • Health and retirement study
  • Perceived control
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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