Social Relationships and Mortality in Older Adulthood: Social Participation, Perceived Support, Social Networks and Neighborhood Characteristics

James Iveniuk, University of Chicago
Phil Schumm, University of Chicago

Previous research has shown that older adults who participate frequently in social organizations have lower mortality than people who participate less often, but this research has not been able to identify which components of participation might be most relevant. In this paper, we examine multiple social factors using a national probability sample of older adults (N=3005), to understand how participation protects against mortality. We find that several distinct social factors (including number of confidants, marriage, closeness to confidants, and neighborhood disorder) are associated with mortality, and in the case of social participation, the relationship is graded and of substantial magnitude (a 63% reduction in the odds of mortality for 3 activities/week). This relationship persists in the context of controls for health, health behaviors and demographic characteristics, and prompts us to consider mechanisms linking participation and mortality that do not work through social support, connectedness, or social control.

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Presented in Poster Session 8: Adult Health and Mortality