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Gender, social engagement, and limitations in late life


  • Thomas, Patricia A.


This study examines gender differences in the pathways among social engagement, physical limitations and cognitive limitations among U.S. older adults. It improves upon previous literature by longitudinally testing both social benefit and selection hypotheses, examining gender differences in these relationships, gaining modeling advantages through structural equation modeling, and by incorporating the frequency of participation in social activities as an important source of social integration that may influence health among older adults. This study uses U.S. panel data of adults aged 60 and older from the Americans’ Changing Lives survey (N = 1642) from 1986, 1989, and 1994 in a cross-lagged panel design to better understand these relationships. For women, the flow is from greater social engagement to lower levels of subsequent physical and cognitive limitations, whereas for men the flow is from greater physical and cognitive limitations to lower levels of subsequent social engagement.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas, Patricia A., 2011. "Gender, social engagement, and limitations in late life," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(9), pages 1428-1435.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:73:y:2011:i:9:p:1428-1435
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.07.035

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2007.113654_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Fuhrer, R. & Stansfeld, S. A., 2002. "How gender affects patterns of social relations and their impact on health: a comparison of one or multiple sources of support from "close persons"," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(5), pages 811-825, March.
    3. Warner, David F. & Brown, Tyson H., 2011. "Understanding how race/ethnicity and gender define age-trajectories of disability: An intersectionality approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(8), pages 1236-1248, April.
    4. Stuck, Andreas E. & Walthert, Jutta M. & Nikolaus, Thorsten & Büla, Christophe J. & Hohmann, Christoph & Beck, John C., 1999. "Risk factors for functional status decline in community-living elderly people: a systematic literature review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 445-469, February.
    5. Kristin J. August & Karen S. Rook & Jason T. Newsom, 2007. "The Joint Effects of Life Stress and Negative Social Exchanges on Emotional Distress," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 62(5), pages 304-314.
    6. Ronald E. Holtzman & George W. Rebok & Jane S. Saczynski & Anthony C. Kouzis & Kathryn Wilcox Doyle & William W. Eaton, 2004. "Social Network Characteristics and Cognition in Middle-Aged and Older Adults," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 59(6), pages 278-284.
    7. Berkman, Lisa F. & Glass, Thomas & Brissette, Ian & Seeman, Teresa E., 2000. "From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(6), pages 843-857, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.


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