Physical and social activities mediate the associations between social network types and ventilatory function in Chinese older adults

Sheung-Tak Cheng, Edward M F Leung, Trista Wai Sze Chan
Health Psychology: Official Journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association 2014, 33 (6): 524-34

OBJECTIVE: This study examined the associations between social network types and peak expiratory flow (PEF), and whether these associations were mediated by social and physical activities and mood.

METHOD: Nine hundred twenty-four community-dwelling Chinese older adults, who were classified into five network types (diverse, friend-focused, family-focused, distant family, and restricted), provided data on demographics, social and physical activities, mood, smoking, chronic diseases, and instrumental activities of daily living. PEF and biological covariates, including blood lipids and glucose, blood pressure, and height and weight, were assessed. Two measures of PEF were analyzed: the raw reading in L/min and the reading expressed as percentage of predicted normal value on the basis of age, sex, and height. Diverse, friend-focused, and distant family networks were hypothesized to have better PEF values compared with restricted networks, through higher physical and/or social activities. No relative advantage was predicted for family-focused networks because such networks tend to be associated with lower physical activity.

RESULTS: Older adults with diverse, friend-focused, and distant family networks had significantly better PEF measures than those with restricted networks. The associations between diverse network and PEF measures were partially mediated by physical exercise and socializing activity. The associations between friend-focused network and PEF measures were partially mediated by socializing activity. No significant PEF differences between family-focused and restricted networks were found.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that social network types are associated with PEF in older adults, and that network-type differences in physical and socializing activity is partly responsible for this relationship.

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