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Social relations and self-reported health: a prospective analysis of the French Gazel cohort


  • Melchior, Maria
  • Berkman, Lisa F.
  • Niedhammer, Isabelle
  • Chea, Maline
  • Goldberg, Marcel


Social networks and social support are strongly associated with health, yet the pathways between social relations and health are not well understood. In one of the very few studies on this issue conducted in France, we used data from the French GAZEL cohort of employees of the national gas and electricity company, to (1) explore the relationship between the structure and function of the social environment upon self-reported health and (2) test the hypothesis that social relations directly affect health. In a prospective analysis over a 12-month follow-up period, we found that a lack of social support and dissatisfaction with social relations are predictive of poor health status, while weak social networks are not. Thus, functional aspects of social relations are better predictors of poor health than the structure of social interactions. Low social support was an independent risk factor for poor health in men and women: for men the effect was strongest among individuals who held a high occupational status, for women among those in high and low occupational groups. This study suggests that in France social relations exert an independent effect on health, modified by gender and socio-economic factors. Our results indicate that both clinicians in their practice and researchers may do well to focus increased attention on the health impact of social support.

Suggested Citation

  • Melchior, Maria & Berkman, Lisa F. & Niedhammer, Isabelle & Chea, Maline & Goldberg, Marcel, 2003. "Social relations and self-reported health: a prospective analysis of the French Gazel cohort," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1817-1830, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:56:y:2003:i:8:p:1817-1830

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    Cited by:

    1. Jens Klein & Nico Vonneilich & Sebastian Baumeister & Thomas Kohlmann & Olaf Knesebeck, 2012. "Do social relations explain health inequalities? Evidence from a longitudinal survey in a changing eastern German region," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 57(3), pages 619-627, June.
    2. Damiano Fiorillo & Fabio Sabatini, 2011. "An exploratory analysis of the relationship between social interactions, income and health in Italy," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 31(2), pages 1336-1352.
    3. Fiorillo Damiano & Sabatini Fabio, 2011. "Quality and quantity: The role of social interactions in individual health," wp.comunite 0073, Department of Communication, University of Teramo.
    4. Fiorillo, Damiano & Sabatini, Fabio, 2011. "Quality and quantity: The role of social interactions in self-reported individual health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(11), pages 1644-1652.
    5. Sabatini, Fabio, 2014. "The relationship between happiness and health: Evidence from Italy," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 178-187.
    6. Waterworth, Pippa & Rosenberg, Michael & Braham, Rebecca & Pescud, Melanie & Dimmock, James, 2014. "The effect of social support on the health of Indigenous Australians in a metropolitan community," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 139-146.
    7. Tindara Addabbo & Marco Fuscaldo & Anna Maccagnan, 2014. "Care and the capability of living a healthy life in a gender perspective," Department of Economics 0042, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    8. Sanders, Anne E., 2010. "A Latino advantage in oral health-related quality of life is modified by nativity status," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(1), pages 205-211, July.
    9. repec:wfo:wstudy:41130 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Zhen Zhang & Jianxin Zhang, 2015. "Social Participation and Subjective Well-Being Among Retirees in China," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 143-160, August.
    11. Ferdinand Salonna & Andrea Geckova & Ivan Zezula & Maria Sleskova & Johan Groothoff & Sijmen Reijneveld & Jitse Dijk, 2012. "Does social support mediate or moderate socioeconomic differences in self-rated health among adolescents?," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 57(3), pages 609-617, June.
    12. Santini, Ziggi Ivan & Koyanagi, Ai & Tyrovolas, Stefanos & Haro, Josep M. & Fiori, Katherine L. & Uwakwa, Richard & Thiyagarajan, Jotheeswaran A. & Webber, Martin & Prince, Martin & Prina, A. Matthew, 2015. "Social network typologies and mortality risk among older people in China, India, and Latin America: A 10/66 Dementia Research Group population-based cohort study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 134-143.


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