Disability and social ties: comparative findings of the CLESA study
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The associations between prevalence, incidence and recovery from activities of daily living (ADL) disability and social ties among community-dwelling persons over 65 in Finland, The Netherlands and Spain are examined. Data were harmonized in the CLESA study. The baseline sample was composed of 3,648 subjects between 65 and 85 years old, living in Finland, The Netherlands and Spain. Disability in four activities of daily living was determined at baseline and at follow-up. Social participation, number of family ties and presence of friends were added to obtain a social ties index. Logistic regressions were fitted to the prevalence, incidence and recovery data to estimate the associations between disability and social ties, adjusting for education, co-morbidity and self-rated health. The modifying effects of country, age and sex were tested in all models. For every country, the social ties index, having friends and social participation were negatively associated with ADL disability prevalence. ADL incidence was negatively related to the number of family ties, with a stronger relationship in Spain than in The Netherlands or Finland. ADL recovery was associated with the social ties index. No age or gender differences in these associations were found. Social ties appear to generate a beneficial effect on the maintenance and restoration of ADL function. While social ties play an important role in maintaining and restoring function in all three countries, family ties appear to generate a stronger effect on protection from disability incidence than does social participation, and the strength of this effect varies by culture.