Social networks and self-rated health in two French-speaking Canadian community dwelling populations over 65

M V Zunzunegui, A Koné, M Johri, F Béland, C Wolfson, H Bergman
Social Science & Medicine 2004, 58 (10): 2069-81
The objective was to evaluate the associations between older persons' health status and their social integration and social networks (family, children, friends and community), in two French-speaking, Canadian community dwelling populations aged 65 years and over, using the conceptual framework proposed by Berkman and Thomas. Data were taken from two 1995 surveys conducted in the city of Moncton (n = 1518) and the Montreal neighbourhood of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (n = 1500). Social engagement (a cumulative index of social activities), networks consisting of friends, family and children and social support were measured using validated scales. Multiple logistic regressions based on structured inclusion of potentially mediating variables were fitted to estimate the associations between health status and social networks. Self-rated health was better for those with a high level of social integration and a strong network of friends in both locations. In addition, in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve family and children networks were positively associated with good health, though the effect of friend networks was attenuated in the presence of disability, good social support from children was associated with good health. Age, sex and education were included as antecedent variables; smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, locus of control and depressive symptoms were considered intermediary variables between social networks and health. In conclusion, social networks, integration and support demonstrated unique positive associations with health. The nature of these associations may vary between populations and cultures.

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