The relationship between driving habits and health-related quality of life in older drivers has been examined by new research.

The AAA Foundation commissioned researchers at Columbia University to evaluate eight factors – depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance, pain interference, physical functioning, pain intensity and participation in social activities – to determine how changes in physical, mental and social health affect driving mobility for older adults.

The researchers found that 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.

“Older adults who give up the keys are more likely to suffer from depression than those who remain behind the wheel,” said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “It is important that we find ways to keep older drivers in good physical health in order to extend their mobility.”

AAA recommends that simple steps, like weekly exercise and stretching, can improve safe driving abilities and keep older adults on the road longer.

“Some decline in physical fitness is inevitable as we age,” said Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research. “But, research shows that exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to produce positive results. You can spread out the time you spend being physically active over the course of your day and week. A few minutes at a time can be sufficient. Simple steps to keep active can keep you driving safely for longer.”

AAA provides exercise tips including a series of stretches to help improve neck, shoulder, trunk, back and overall body flexibility.

Read more in the AAA Newsroom