Buddhist social networks and health in old age: A study in central Thailand

Kwanchit Sasiwongsaroj, Taizo Wada, Kiyohito Okumiya, Hissei Imai, Yasuko Ishimoto, Ryota Sakamoto, Michiko Fujisawa, Yumi Kimura, Wen-ling Chen, Eriko Fukutomi, Kozo Matsubayashi
Geriatrics & Gerontology International 2015, 15 (11): 1210-8

AIM: Religious social networks are well known for their capacity to improve individual health, yet the effects of friendship networks within the Buddhist context remain largely unknown. The present study aimed to compare health status and social support in community-dwelling older adults according to their level of Buddhist social network (BSN) involvement, and to examine the association between BSN involvement and functional health among older adults.

METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was carried out among 427 Buddhist community-dwelling older adults aged ≥60 years in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. Data were collected from home-based personal interviews using a structured questionnaire. Health status was defined according to the measures of basic and advanced activities of daily living (ADL), the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale and subjective quality of life. Perceived social support was assessed across the four dimensions of tangible, belonging, emotional and information support. Multiple logistic regression was used for analysis.

RESULTS: Older adults with BSN involvement reported better functional, mental and social health status, and perceived greater social support than those without BSN involvement. In addition, BSN involvement was positively associated with independence in basic and advanced ADL. After adjusting for age, sex, education, income, morbidity and depressive symptoms, BSN showed a strong association with advanced ADL and a weak association with basic ADL.

CONCLUSION: The results show that involvement in BSN could contribute positively to functional health, particularly with regard to advanced ADL. Addressing the need for involvement in these networks by older adults might help delay functional decline and save on healthcare costs.

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