Trajectories of Social Engagement and Mortality in Late Life

University of Texas at Austin, Population Research Center, Austin, TX 78712, USA.
Journal of Aging and Health (Impact Factor: 1.56). 01/2012; 24(4):547-68. DOI: 10.1177/0898264311432310
Source: PubMed


There is a dearth of empirical research examining how patterns of stability and change in social engagement affect mortality. This study uses social integration theory within a life course framework to examine trajectories of social engagement over time and how those patterns relate to mortality.
Data are drawn from the Americans' Changing Lives survey, a nationally representative panel study, with mortality information spanning from 1986 to 2005.
Even after controlling for known predictors of mortality, membership in a trajectory of high and slightly increasing social engagement was related to lower risk of mortality. Sociodemographic, health condition, and health behavior variables mediated the impact of the other social engagement trajectories on mortality.
Findings suggest the importance of maintaining high levels of social engagement over time for the health of older adults.

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Available from: Patricia A Thomas, Aug 13, 2015
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    • "A second limitation is our assessment of social support trajectories. Although our trajectory analyses represent an advance over static baseline measures of social support, discrete trajectory classification " ignores the interindividual heterogeneity around each trajectory class " (Thomas, 2012:562). By clustering individual trajectories, the GMM procedure necessarily restricts our interpretation to differences in social support trajectory classes. "
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    • "One important aspect of volunteering is social engagement or participating in social life. Social engagement among older people has been well recognised as a predictor of health status, cognitive functioning and mortality (Thomas, 2012). However, Anderson et al. (2014) have reviewed many studies which point to the wellbeing benefits of volunteering over and above those of social engagement. "
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