What really matters in the social network–mortality association? A multivariate examination among older Jewish-Israelis

Abstract

The aim of the inquiry was to examine the social network–mortality association within a wider multivariate context that accounts for the effects of background framing forces and psychobiological pathways. The inquiry was based upon the Berkman et al. (2000) conceptual model of the determinants of health. Its main purpose was to identify the salient network correlates of 7-year all cause mortality among Jewish men and women, aged 70 and over, in Israel (n = 1,811). The investigation utilized baseline data from a national household survey of older adults from 1997 that was linked to records from the National Death Registry, updated through 2004. At the time of the study, 38% of the sample had died. Multivariate Cox hazard regressions identified two main network-related components as predictors of survival: contact with friends, a social network interaction variable, and attendance at a synagogue, a social engagement variable. Friendship ties are seen to uniquely reduce mortality risk because they are based on choice in nature, and reflect a sense of personal control. Synagogue attendance is seen to promote survival mainly through its function as a source of communal attachment and, perhaps, as a reflection of spirituality as well. Other possibly network-related correlates of mortality were also noted in the current analysis—the receipt of instrumental support and the state of childlessness.

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Correspondence to Howard Litwin.

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The study on which this article is based was made possible by grants from the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology to the Israel Gerontological Data Center.

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Litwin, H. What really matters in the social network–mortality association? A multivariate examination among older Jewish-Israelis. Eur J Ageing 4, 71–82 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-007-0048-2

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Keywords

  • Mortality
  • Social network
  • Friends
  • Synagogue
  • Jews
  • Israel