Social networks and health status in the elderly: the ‘ANZIANI IN-RETE’ population-based study
Certain features of the social environment could maintain and even improve not only psychological well-being, but also health and cognition of the elderly.
We tested the association between social network characteristics and the number of chronic diseases in the elderly.
A randomized sample of the elderly population of Brescia, Italy, was evaluated (N = 200, age ≥65 years). We performed a comprehensive geriatric assessment, including information on socio-demographic variables (family, friendships, and acquaintance contacts). We measured each person’s social network, i.e., degree, efficiency, and variety.
The sample included 118 women and 82 men, mean age 77.7 years. The mean number of chronic diseases was 3.5. A higher social network degree, i.e., more social connections, was associated with fewer diseases. We also found that having more contacts with people similar to each other or intense relationships with people who do not know each other were associated with fewer diseases.
More healthy people tend to share certain characteristics of social networks. Our study indicates that it is important to look at diseases and health as complex phenomena, which requires integrating different levels of analysis.
KeywordsAging Social networks Health status Network degree Social factors Chronic diseases
This work received official support by the Municipality of Brescia and Province of Brescia. The authors are grateful to Leonardo Pedroni for his help with the data input.
Compliance with ethical standards
This work was supported by a grant of Fondazione EULO and the University of Brescia (Grant: ANZIANI IN-RETE) and a grant of Senior Italia Federanziani. The funding agencies had no role in the study design, data analysis, preparation, or approval of the manuscript.
Conflict of interest
The authors do not have any conflict of interest to disclose.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Ethical committee of the Local Health Unit (ASL) of Brescia (Italy) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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