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Aging Clin Exp Res. 2003 Apr;15(2):164-73.

The influence of differing social ties on decline in physical functioning among older people with and without chronic diseases: the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam.

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  • 1VU University Medical Center, Institue for Research in Extramural Medicine, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. MI.Bisschop.EMGO@med.vu.nl



Global social support measures have been shown to be related to several health outcomes. However, little is known about the effects of differing social ties and their support on the risk for decline in physical functioning among older people, without as compared with those with chronic diseases. This study examines whether differing types of social ties and support differentially mitigate the negative effects of chronic diseases on decline in physical functioning.


Using data from two cycles of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (N=2357), logistic regression analyses adjusted for baseline functioning, age, gender, and incidence of chronic diseases were conducted, to assess the effect of differing social ties for subgroups with different numbers of chronic diseases. Information about the presence of differing social ties included partner status and numbers of daughters, sons, other family members, and non-kin relationships. Social support included instrumental and emotional support, and the experience of loneliness. Decline in physical functioning was determined by substantial change after three years on a 6-item self-report scale.


Although having a partner had a protective effect on decline in physical functioning in people without chronic diseases at baseline, this was not the case for those with chronic diseases. Total network size had an adverse effect in older people without chronic diseases, but a positive effect when chronic diseases were present, mainly due to a positive effect of the number of daughters and non-kin relationships.


Our results provide evidence that differing types of social relationships and the support they provide, differentially influence decline in physical functioning in older people, with or without chronic diseases.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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