Multi-method exploration of physical activity, personality and wellbeing in older adults and university students in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Chan, Bill Cheuk Long
While the global life expectancy and number of university students have both increased dramatically since the mid-20th century, previous findings suggest that many older adults and students struggle to live a healthy and happy life. The purpose of this thesis was to explore the interaction of physical activity and personality in the wellbeing of older adults and university students in Hong Kong (HK) and the United Kingdom (UK). Two complementary multiple methods studies were designed, one focusing on adults aged 50 years or above (Study 1), the other on current university students (Study 3). The quantitative components (Study 1A and Study 3A) focused on assessing whether the relationship between physical activity and subjective wellbeing (SWB) would be moderated by any of the Big Five personality traits. In total, 349 older adults (178 from HK; 171 from the UK) and 384 university students (186 from HK; 194 from the UK) participated in the quantitative components through completing a cross-sectional online survey. The qualitative components (Study 1B and Study 3B) used semi-structured interviews and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore how physically active individuals experienced and made sense of their sports participation, personality, wellbeing, and culture. Six older adults (3 from HK; 3 from the UK) and 12 university students (6 from HK; 6 from the UK) who were members of a sport club participated in the qualitative components. To further explore issues not addressed in Study 1 and Study 3, two additional studies (Study 2 and Study 4) were conducted. With access to existing longitudinal data from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (LBC1936), Study 2 focused on investigating whether the interactions tested in Study 1A’s cross-sectional sample would hold longitudinally in an older sample across a three-year period. Five hundred and twenty Scottish participants were involved in this study. Study 4 was a qualitative, single case study of Fung Ka Ki - HK’s first professional footballer with a Master’s degree who, unlike those interviewed in Study 3B, studied in both HK and the UK and already finished his student athlete career over a decade ago. Through using IPA, the case study explored how he made sense of himself and his wellbeing through his experiences of having been a highly physically active university student across two cultures. Study 1A found that the physical activity–SWB relationship was moderated by extraversion and by openness - the positive relationship was stronger among older adults with higher levels of these two personality traits. Three themes were reported in Study 1B: 1) older adults in HK and the UK both saw their sport as a conduit for self-expression and mood regulation; 2) the UK participants claimed sport helped them develop as a person; and 3) the HK participants claimed that sport was a mirror of their culture. Study 2 found that while all of the Big Five personality traits predicted SWB across the 3-year period in the expected direction, neither physical activity nor its joint effect with any of the personality traits was a significant predictor of subsequent SWB. Additional analysis based on the cross-sectional data available in LBC1936 showed that physical activity’s interactions with extraversion and with openness in SWB found in Study 1A could not be replicated. Study 3A found that the physical activity–SWB relationship was moderated by extraversion and by agreeableness - students who were more extraverted and more agreeable experienced a stronger positive relationship. Study 3B showed: 1) British and HK students both experienced sport as drawing out strength of character and as a therapeutic agent; 2) British participants experienced university as an energising environment, yet competing for their university brought emotional turmoil; and 3) HK participants claimed that sport helped maturation, yet HK’s culture was counterproductive to athletic development. In study 4, three themes were derived from Fung Ka Ki’s lived experiences. The first theme illustrated how his football-specific wisdom helped him cope with the challenges he experienced in different stages of his student athlete life. The second theme captured the different possibilities of wellbeing he experienced through the combination of sport and scholarship, including possibilities that occurred during and after university. The final theme demonstrated his sense-making around differences between football in HK versus the UK based on his unique bicultural experiences in the two locations. Overall, the quantitative and qualitative findings converge to show how and why personality may influence older adults’ and university students’ experience of the relationship between physical activity and wellbeing. The results may inform practitioners on how individual differences need to be considered when promoting physical activity and wellbeing for participants of different age groups and cultures. The phenomenological findings highlight the benefits of studying wellbeing as a subjective, lived experience through the perspective of individuals. They also provide insight into how East Asian participants, a relatively under-represented group in the literature, make sense of their sporting experiences.