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Older people with friendship circles engage better with preventative health

9th November 2018

A new study published in the Lancet Public Health Journal has suggested that older people with larger friendship circles may be better at keeping up with preventative health measures.

Researchers from the Health Foundation began their study several decades ago, conducting a survey on 5,362 adults who were born in 1946 in England, Scotland and Wales. The regular check-ups of their social relationships stopped once they reached the age of 68, by which time only 2,132 people were still alive and willing to participate in the study.

In addition to tracking the social aspect of their lives, the study also highlighted how well they engaged in preventative health. Those who were taking part in the MRC National Survey of Health and Development were tested in a variety of areas, from cancer screenings, routine check-ups and immunisations to vision and dental exams and cholesterol assessments, to have an overview of how well they were responding to health treatments.

Lead study of the author, Mai Stafford of the Health Foundation in London said of the study: “It suggests that if we can intervene to get people more socially connected, then there may be benefits for their preventive health care use. This is important for patients because taking up opportunities for check-ups like bowel and breast cancer screening, flu jabs and blood pressure monitoring can help prevent serious illness and may ultimately prolong life.”

The study found that those who were unmarried or widowed, as well as those who were living alone were 24% less likely to have gone to their appointments when compared to people who are married or cohabiting. What’s more is those that attend fewer social engagements and have smaller friendship circles were 51% more likely to be behind on preventative health screenings.

Despite the findings, Gail Mountain, researcher at the University of Sheffield, believes that there are a myriad of reasons that older people could react to the study differently, including those who use a stairlift at home and live on their own, and those who have recently become widowed: "a woman whose husband has always driven the family car can find herself challenged by having to use public transport when widowed; poor mobility in later life can cause significant problems when trying to get out and about and there can be increased cost if taxis are required; and loss of lifelong roles can leave an individual feeling devalued," Mountain said.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.