BMC geriatrics 2017 05 1917(1) 111 doi 10.1186/s12877-017-0502-8
Although numerous investigations have indicated that social participation (SP) has positive effects on the health of older adults, there have been few studies on its negative health consequences. We examined the cross-sectional associations of the type, frequency, and autonomy for SP with physical and mental health.
The analytical subjects were 5126 males and 7006 females who were functionally independent, born between 1945 and 1949, and covered by A City’s medical insurance system. Physical and mental health were measured using the SF-8 Health Survey. SP was measured through six types of social groups. These social groups included volunteer groups, sports groups, hobby clubs, senior citizens’ clubs, neighborhood community associations, and cultural groups. Analysis of covariance was conducted to compare adjusted physical health component summary scores (PCS) and mental health component summary scores (MCS) by the frequency and autonomy of SP. Age, family size, body mass index, chronic conditions, smoking, alcohol intake, depression and cognitive functioning were included as covariates. To examine whether the associations between SP and PCS/MCS are different between genders, we performed analyses stratified by gender.
Overall, positive associations of the frequency and autonomy of SP with PCS and MCS were stronger in females than males. As to frequency, frequent participation in sports groups and hobby clubs had significantly better PCS among both genders and better MCS among females than non-participation. None of the groups differed significantly in the MCS among males. As to autonomy, among both genders, voluntary participation in sports groups and hobby clubs had significantly better PCS than non-participation, and better MCS than not only non-participation, but also obligatory participation. Among females, obligatory participation in all groups had significantly poorer MCS than voluntary participation, and obligatory participation in sports groups had significantly poorer MCS than non-participation.
Obligatory SP had significantly poorer MCS than voluntary participation, occasionally than non-participation; there is a possibility that obligatory SP has harmful influences on mental health of community-dwelling elderly. Measures to promote SP with consideration for individuals’ autonomy may be effective in the public health approach to maintaining mental health.