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Arya C R

Arya CR

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Social connectedness, functional capacity, and longevity: A focus on positive relations with others.

Published on: February 21, 2024

Original author: Elliot Friedman, et al. (2024) (DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.116419)

The study aims to investigate the impact of positive relations with others on aging-related health outcomes, particularly longevity and functional capacity. Building on Aristotle's notion of humans as inherently social beings, the research seeks to expand current understandings of social connection by examining the distinct contribution of cultivating warm, trusting relationships. Drawing on Holt-Lunstad's conceptual framework, the study distinguishes between structural (social integration) and functional (social support) aspects of social connectedness, with a focus on the unique role of positive relations in promoting health. Existing literature suggests that positive relations with others may play a crucial role in better health outcomes, including fewer functional limitations and increased longevity. However, few studies have specifically examined this aspect of social connection in relation to physical health. The study hypothesizes that greater positive relations with others was associated with enhanced longevity and improved functional capacity over time, independent of social integration and social support. The research aims to fill the gap by analyzing longitudinal data on aging adults, assessing mobility limitations as indicators of functional capacity. By considering the influence of positive relations with others alongside social integration and social support, the study seeks to provide insights into the unique contribution of warm, trusting relationships to health and well-being in later part of life. Methodology: The study draws on data from the Mid-life in the United States (MIDUS) longitudinal survey, utilizing information from its first and third waves along with mortality data from the National Death Index up to 2022. Functional limitations, assessed through self-reports on mobility-related tasks, and mortality outcomes are the focus. Logistic and linear regression models were employed to analyze the onset and changes in limitations over time, as well as mortality risk. Social relationships were assessed through measures of positive relations with others, social integration, and social support, with adjustments for potential confounders. Statistical analyses aimed to determine the independent contribution of positive relations to health outcomes, with clustered sandwich estimators used to address familial and genetic influences. Results were interpreted in terms of average marginal effects for logistic regression models, with Stata 16 utilized for analysis. Results: The study's results revealed significant associations between positive relations with others and various health outcomes among participants from the MIDUS longitudinal survey. Higher scores on the positive relations scale were linked to fewer functional limitations and reduced mortality risk over time. Linear regression models showed that greater positive relations were associated with less decline in functional limitations and lower odds of developing new limitations over the study period. Logistic regression models also indicated a lower probability of mortality among those with higher scores on positive relations. These associations remained significant even after adjusting for demographic factors, social support, and social integration. Additional analyses did not find significant interactions by gender or age. Overall, the findings underscore the importance of positive social relationships for promoting health and well-being in later life. Conclusion: The study benefits from a large, national sample and well-established measures of social connectedness, shedding light on the role of positive relations in promoting health and longevity beyond traditional measures of social integration and support. This underscores the importance of fostering meaningful connections for overall well-being in later life. Impact of research: The impact of this study lies in its contribution to understanding the nuanced relationship between social connections and health outcomes, particularly in the context of positive relations with others. By highlighting the distinct role of positive relationships in promoting health and longevity, the study enriches existing literature on social connectedness and well-being. This emphasis on the quality of social relationships underscores the importance of fostering meaningful connections, beyond mere structural or functional aspects, for overall health in later life.

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