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Social relationships and health related behaviors among older US adults

Watt, RG; Heilmann, A; Sheiham, A; Marmot, M; Tsakos, G; Sabbah, W; Newton, T; ... Kawachi, I; + view all (2014) Social relationships and health related behaviors among older US adults. BMC Public Health , 14 (1) , Article 533. 10.1186/1471-2458-14-533. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Health behaviors are a key determinant of health and well-being that are influenced by the nature of the social environment. This study examined associations between social relationships and health-related behaviors among a nationally representative sample of older people. Methods. We analyzed data from three waves (1999-2004) of the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Participants were 4,014 older Americans aged 60 and over. Log-binomial regression models estimated prevalence ratios (PR) for the associations between social relationships and each of the following health behaviors: alcohol use, smoking, physical activity and dental attendance. Results: Health-compromising behaviors (smoking, heavy drinking and less frequent dental visits) were related to marital status, while physical activity, a health-promoting behavior, was associated with the size of friendship networks. Smoking was more common among divorced/separated (PR = 2.1; 95% CI: 1.6, 2.7) and widowed (PR = 1.7; 95% CI: 1.3, 2.3) respondents than among those married or cohabiting, after adjusting for socio-demographic background. Heavy drinking was 2.6 times more common among divorced/separated and 1.7 times more common among widowed men compared to married/cohabiting men, while there was no such association among women. For women, heavy drinking was associated with being single (PR = 1.7; 95% CI: 1.0, 2.9). Being widowed was related to a lower prevalence of having visited a dentist compared to being married or living with a partner (PR = 0.92; 95% CI 0.86, 0.99). Those with a larger circle of friends were more likely to be physically active (PR = 1.17; 95% CI:1.06, 1.28 for 5-8 versus less than 5 friends). Conclusions: Social relationships of older Americans were independently associated with different health-related behaviors, even after adjusting for demographic and socioeconomic determinants. Availability of emotional support did not however mediate these associations. More research is needed to assess if strengthening social relationships would have a significant impact on older people's health behaviors and ultimately improve their health. © 2014 Watt et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Type: Article
Title: Social relationships and health related behaviors among older US adults
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-533
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-14-533
Additional information: © 2014 Watt et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Keywords: Social relationships; Health behaviors; Aging;
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1433511
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