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Qual Life Res. 2005 Mar;14(2):511-20.

Social network and health-related quality of life in older adults: a population-based study in Spain.

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  • 1Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.


This study examined the association between social network and health-related quality of life (HRQL) in older adults and compared this against the association between HRQL and a disabling disease such as osteoarthritis. A cross-sectional survey was done on 3600 subjects representative of the Spanish non-institutionalised population aged 60 years and over. Data were collected through home-based personal interview and physical examination. HRQL was measured with the SF-36 health questionnaire. Data analysis was performed with multiple linear regression models with adjustment for the main confounders. Of the total sample, 38.6% of subjects were unmarried, 17.6% were living alone, 4.7% saw their family seldom or never, and 2.9% saw their friends seldom or never. Unmarried status and living alone were associated with lower scores in the social and mental quality-of-life components, though statistical significance was not in general attained (p > 0.05). Seeing family members seldom or never was associated (p < 0.05) with worse scores in the following scales of SF-36 questionnaire: role-physical, body pain, general health and mental health. HRQL was lower among those who saw friends seldom or never, and the reduction in HRQL proved similar to that associated with osteoarthritis, on the physical functioning (coefficients -8.4 vs. -8.1) and general health scales (-7.8 vs. -6.6); the reduction in HRQL was even greater than that associated with osteoarthritis for other scales, such as vitality (-9.6 vs. -6.7; p > 0.05) and social functioning (-14.5 vs. -3.7; p < 0.05). We conclude that only a small proportion of Spain's elderly population lack frequent social relationships, yet low frequency of relationships with friends is associated with a decline in quality of life similar to or greater than that associated with osteoarthritis.

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