Wearable sensors are being applied to real-world motion monitoring and the focus of this work is assessing health status and wellbeing. An extensive literature has documented the effects on gait control of impaired physical health, but in this project, the aim was to determine whether emotional states associated with older people’s mental health are also associated with walking mechanics. If confirmed, wearable sensors could be used to monitor affective responses. Lower limb gait mechanics of 126 healthy individuals (mean age 66.2 ± 8.38 years) were recorded using a high-speed 3D motion sensing system and they also completed a 12-item mental health status questionnaire (GHQ-12). Mean step width and minimum foot-ground clearance (MFC), indicative of tripping risk, were moderately correlated with GHQ-12. Ageing and variability (SD) of gait parameters were not significantly correlated with GHQ-12. GHQ-12 scores were, however, highly correlated with left-right gait control, indicating that greater gait symmetry was associated with better mental health. Maintaining good mental health with ageing may promote safer gait and wearable sensor technologies could be applied to gait asymmetry monitoring, possibly using a single inertial measurement unit attached to each shoe.
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