Objectives This study aimed to investigate longitudinal relations between leisure and social activities and mental health status, considering the presence or absence of other persons in the activity as an additional variable, among middle-Aged adults in Japan. This study used nationally representative data in Japan with a five-year follow-up period. Methods This study focused on 16,642 middle-Aged adults, age 50-59 at baseline, from a population- based, six-year panel survey conducted by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. To investigate the relations between two leisure activities ('hobbies or cultural activities' and 'exercise or sports') and four social activities ('community events', 'support for children', 'support for elderly individuals' and 'other social activities') at baseline and mental health status at follow-up, multiple logistic regression analysis was used. We also used multiple logistic regression analysis to investigate the association between ways of participating in these activities ('by oneself', 'with others', or 'both' (both 'by oneself' and 'with others')) at baseline and mental health status at follow-up. Results Involvement in both leisure activity categories, but not in social activities, was significantly and positively related to mental health status in both men and women. Furthermore, in men, both 'hobbies or cultural activities' and 'exercise or sports' were significantly related to mental health status only when conducted 'with others'. In women, the effects of 'hobbies or cultural activities' on mental health status were no differences regardless of the ways of participating, while the result of 'exercise or sports' was same as that in men. Conclusions Leisure activities appear to benefit mental health status among this age group, whereas specific social activities do not. Moreover, participation in leisure activities would be effective especially if others are present. These findings should be useful for preventing the deterioration of mental health status in middle-Aged adults in Japan.
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