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Social engagement pattern, health behaviors and subjective well-being of older adults: an international perspective using WHO-SAGE survey data

  • Luo, Mengyun1, 2
  • Ding, Ding1
  • Bauman, Adrian1
  • Negin, Joel1
  • Phongsavan, Philayrath1
  • 1 The University of Sydney, Sydney School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health and Charles Perkins Centre, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia , Sydney (Australia)
  • 2 Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, 200025, People’s Republic of China , Shanghai (China)
Published Article
BMC Public Health
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Jan 23, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-019-7841-7
Springer Nature


BackgroundSocial engagement forms the basis of social relationships by providing a sense of belonging, social identity, and fulfillment. Previous research demonstrates that social engagement was associated with positive health behaviors among older adults. However, the results have been different across health-related behaviors, and mostly based on data from high-income countries. For example, studies from the US and UK showed that social engagement was protective against smoking, while others found social engagement encouraged more smoking in many Asian cultures. In this study, we aim to examine the association between social engagement and a range of health-related behaviors and subjective well-being among older adults in six low- to middle-income countries.MethodsData from the WHO Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE Wave 1) were used. A total of 33,338 individuals aged 50 and older in China, Russia, India, Ghana, South Africa, and Mexico were included. Social engagement, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity, sedentary behavior, sleep duration, depression symptoms, self-rated health status, and quality of life were assessed using established self-reported measures. Multiple logistic regression models were used to examine the relationship between social engagement and nine outcome variables, adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics.ResultsLower levels of social engagement were positively related to physical inactivity, prolonged sitting time, unhealthy sleep duration, perceived depression, poor self-rated health, and low quality of life. However, the associations between social engagement and tobacco use, excessive drinking, and insufficient fruit and vegetable intake were mixed across countries.ConclusionThis international study found high social engagement as a potential health-promoting factor in some low- to middle-income countries. Although the impacts of social engagement on tobacco and alcohol use and diet were complicated and culture-specific, interventions at both individual and community levels should encourage healthy lifestyles through positive social engagement.

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