Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of jepicomhJournal of Epidemiology and Community HealthVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Epidemiol Community Health. 2005 July; 59(7): 574–579.
PMCID: PMC1757078

Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian longitudinal study of aging


Study objectives: To examine if social networks with children, relatives, friends, and confidants predict survival in older Australians over 10 years after controlling for a range of demographic, health, and lifestyle variables.

Design: Prospective longitudinal cohort study (the Australian longitudinal study of aging)

Setting: Adelaide, South Australia.

Participants: 1477 persons aged 70 years or more living in the community and residential care facilities.

Main results: After controlling for a range of demographic, health, and lifestyle variables, greater networks with friends were protective against mortality in the 10 year follow up period. The hazard ratio for participants in the highest tertile of friends networks compared with participants in the lowest group was 0.78 (95%CI 0.65 to 0.92). A smaller effect of greater networks with confidants (hazard ratio = 0.84; 95%CI = 0.71 to 0.98) was seen. The effects of social networks with children and relatives were not significant with respect to survival over the following decade.

Conclusions: Survival time may be enhanced by strong social networks. Among older Australians, these may be important in lengthening survival.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (110K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Berkman LF, Syme SL. Social networks, host resistance, and mortality: a nine-year follow-up study of Alameda County residents. Am J Epidemiol. 1979 Feb;109(2):186–204. [PubMed]
  • Blazer DG. Social support and mortality in an elderly community population. Am J Epidemiol. 1982 May;115(5):684–694. [PubMed]
  • House JS, Robbins C, Metzner HL. The association of social relationships and activities with mortality: prospective evidence from the Tecumseh Community Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1982 Jul;116(1):123–140. [PubMed]
  • Schoenbach VJ, Kaplan BH, Fredman L, Kleinbaum DG. Social ties and mortality in Evans County, Georgia. Am J Epidemiol. 1986 Apr;123(4):577–591. [PubMed]
  • Seeman TE, Kaplan GA, Knudsen L, Cohen R, Guralnik J. Social network ties and mortality among the elderly in the Alameda County Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1987 Oct;126(4):714–723. [PubMed]
  • Seeman TE, Berkman LF, Kohout F, Lacroix A, Glynn R, Blazer D. Intercommunity variations in the association between social ties and mortality in the elderly. A comparative analysis of three communities. Ann Epidemiol. 1993 Jul;3(4):325–335. [PubMed]
  • Kawachi I, Colditz GA, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Giovannucci E, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. A prospective study of social networks in relation to total mortality and cardiovascular disease in men in the USA. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1996 Jun;50(3):245–251. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Steinbach U. Social networks, institutionalization, and mortality among elderly people in the United States. J Gerontol. 1992 Jul;47(4):S183–S190. [PubMed]
  • Vogt TM, Mullooly JP, Ernst D, Pope CR, Hollis JF. Social networks as predictors of ischemic heart disease, cancer, stroke and hypertension: incidence, survival and mortality. J Clin Epidemiol. 1992 Jun;45(6):659–666. [PubMed]
  • Berkman Lisa F, Melchior Maria, Chastang Jean-François, Niedhammer Isabelle, Leclerc Annette, Goldberg Marcel. Social integration and mortality: a prospective study of French employees of Electricity of France-Gas of France: the GAZEL Cohort. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Jan 15;159(2):167–174. [PubMed]
  • Orth-Gomér K, Johnson JV. Social network interaction and mortality. A six year follow-up study of a random sample of the Swedish population. J Chronic Dis. 1987;40(10):949–957. [PubMed]
  • Jylhä M, Aro S. Social ties and survival among the elderly in Tampere, Finland. Int J Epidemiol. 1989 Mar;18(1):158–164. [PubMed]
  • Kaplan GA, Salonen JT, Cohen RD, Brand RJ, Syme SL, Puska P. Social connections and mortality from all causes and from cardiovascular disease: prospective evidence from eastern Finland. Am J Epidemiol. 1988 Aug;128(2):370–380. [PubMed]
  • Welin L, Tibblin G, Svärdsudd K, Tibblin B, Ander-Peciva S, Larsson B, Wilhelmsen L. Prospective study of social influences on mortality. The study of men born in 1913 and 1923. Lancet. 1985 Apr 20;1(8434):915–918. [PubMed]
  • Penninx BW, van Tilburg T, Kriegsman DM, Deeg DJ, Boeke AJ, van Eijk JT. Effects of social support and personal coping resources on mortality in older age: the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. Am J Epidemiol. 1997 Sep 15;146(6):510–519. [PubMed]
  • Sugisawa H, Liang J, Liu X. Social networks, social support, and mortality among older people in Japan. J Gerontol. 1994 Jan;49(1):S3–13. [PubMed]
  • Simons LA, McCallum J, Friedlander Y, Simons J. Predictors of mortality in the prospective Dubbo study of Australian elderly. Aust N Z J Med. 1996 Feb;26(1):40–48. [PubMed]
  • Korten AE, Jorm AF, Jiao Z, Letenneur L, Jacomb PA, Henderson AS, Christensen H, Rodgers B. Health, cognitive, and psychosocial factors as predictors of mortality in an elderly community sample. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1999 Feb;53(2):83–88. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • McCallum J, Shadbolt B, Wang D. Self-rated health and survival: a 7-year follow-up study of Australian elderly. Am J Public Health. 1994 Jul;84(7):1100–1105. [PubMed]
  • Karuza J, Miller WA, Lieberman D, Ledenyi L, Thines T. Oral status and resident well-being in a skilled nursing facility population. Gerontologist. 1992 Feb;32(1):104–112. [PubMed]
  • O'Reilly P. Methodological issues in social support and social network research. Soc Sci Med. 1988;26(8):863–873. [PubMed]
  • Glass TA, Mendes de Leon CF, Seeman TE, Berkman LF. Beyond single indicators of social networks: a LISREL analysis of social ties among the elderly. Soc Sci Med. 1997 May;44(10):1503–1517. [PubMed]
  • Giles Lynne C, Metcalf Patricia A, Anderson Craig S, Andrews Gary R. Social networks among older Australians: a validation of Glass's model. J Cancer Epidemiol Prev. 2002;7(4):195–204. [PubMed]
  • Finucane P, Giles LC, Withers RT, Silagy CA, Sedgwick A, Hamdorf PA, Halbert JA, Cobiac L, Clark MS, Andrews GR. Exercise profile and subsequent mortality in an elderly Australian population. Aust N Z J Public Health. 1997 Apr;21(2):155–158. [PubMed]
  • Giles Lynne C, Metcalf Patricia A, Glonek Gary F V, Luszcz Mary A, Andrews Gary R. The effects of social networks on disability in older Australians. J Aging Health. 2004;16(4):517–538. [PubMed]
  • Rosow I, Breslau N. A Guttman health scale for the aged. J Gerontol. 1966 Oct;21(4):556–559. [PubMed]
  • Folstein MF, Folstein SE, McHugh PR. "Mini-mental state". A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. J Psychiatr Res. 1975 Nov;12(3):189–198. [PubMed]
  • Luszcz MA, Bryan J, Kent P. Predicting episodic memory performance of very old men and women: contributions from age, depression, activity, cognitive ability, and speed. Psychol Aging. 1997 Jun;12(2):340–351. [PubMed]
  • Anstey KJ, Luszcz MA, Giles LC, Andrews GR. Demographic, health, cognitive, and sensory variables as predictors of mortality in very old adults. Psychol Aging. 2001 Mar;16(1):3–11. [PubMed]
  • Grambsch PM, Therneau TM, Fleming TR. Diagnostic plots to reveal functional form for covariates in multiplicative intensity models. Biometrics. 1995 Dec;51(4):1469–1482. [PubMed]
  • Seeman TE, Berkman LF. Structural characteristics of social networks and their relationship with social support in the elderly: who provides support. Soc Sci Med. 1988;26(7):737–749. [PubMed]
  • Berkman LF, Glass T, Brissette I, Seeman TE. From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium. Soc Sci Med. 2000 Sep;51(6):843–857. [PubMed]
  • Lee GR, Shehan CL. Social relations and the self-esteem of older persons. Res Aging. 1989 Dec;11(4):427–442. [PubMed]
  • Litwin H. Social network type and morale in old age. Gerontologist. 2001 Aug;41(4):516–524. [PubMed]
  • Lee GR, Ishii-Kuntz M. Social interaction, loneliness, and emotional well-being among the elderly. Res Aging. 1987 Dec;9(4):459–482. [PubMed]
  • Luszcz MA, Bryan J, Kent P. Predicting episodic memory performance of very old men and women: contributions from age, depression, activity, cognitive ability, and speed. Psychol Aging. 1997 Jun;12(2):340–351. [PubMed]
  • Anstey Kaarin J, Luszcz Mary A. Mortality risk varies according to gender and change in depressive status in very old adults. Psychosom Med. 2002 Nov-Dec;64(6):880–888. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group