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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2002 Sep;57(5):S308-18.

Social factors and mortality in the old-old in Israel: the CALAS study.

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  • 1Herczeg Institute on Aging, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel 69978.



Using a theoretical framework that divided social factors measures into structure, function, and social engagement, this study determined those aspects of social networks most significantly associated with 8-year, all-cause mortality among the old-old in Israel.


Jews (n = 1,340) aged 75-94 living in Israel on January 1, 1989, were randomly selected from the National Population Register; stratified by age, sex, and place of birth; and interviewed in person. Mortality was determined according to the National Death Registry (December 1997).


After controlling for sociodemographics and measures of health, cognitive status, depressive symptoms, and physical function, the measures of social engagement that explicitly involved others were associated with a lower risk of mortality. No measure of the function of the social network was associated with risk of mortality. Living in the community without a spouse and with a child and living in an institution were significantly associated with a higher risk of mortality.


The finding that participating in activities with people outside of the immediate family is associated with a lower risk of death has practical implications for helping the aging population and their families in their decision-making process. Lack of support for the hypothesis that those with more social support would show reduced risk of mortality may indicate that the positive effect of perceiving support and the negative effect of needing support may cancel each other out and result in no perceived effect. In this population, the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and the risk of mortality seems to be expressed through the living arrangements, with the sick and frail, both in institutions (higher SES) and in the community with a child or other (lower SES), having a higher risk of mortality. These findings are consistent with the use of children as a substitute for institutionalization, and imply that at least some cohabitation was the caretaking solution for the noninstitutionalized old-old who were of low SES, frail, and close to death.

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