Journal Article

Community Social Characteristics and Health at Older Ages: Evidence From 156 Religious Communities

Catherine E Bowen and Marc Luy

in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B

Published on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America

Volume 73, issue 8, pages 1429-1438
Published in print October 2018 | ISSN: 1079-5014
Published online August 2016 | e-ISSN: 1758-5368 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbw114
Community Social Characteristics and Health at Older Ages: Evidence From 156 Religious Communities

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  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Gerontology and Ageing

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Abstract

Objectives

Previous studies have found that individuals’ health is associated with the social characteristics of their communities. However, interpreting the causality of the relationships is difficult due to a number of potential confounders on both the individual- and community-levels as well as potential selection effects. In the current article, we analyze data on health and community characteristics from Catholic order members aged 50+ living together in religious communities. We argue that the potential for confounders and selection effects is reduced in our sample.

Method

We use multilevel group actor–partner interdependence models and cross-sectional questionnaire data (N = 1,041, k = 156 communities) to test whether individuals’ self-rated health was associated with the level of social conflict and connectedness of their community separate from their own involvement in conflict and feelings of connectedness.

Results

We find that living in communities with higher levels of conflict is associated with worse health, especially at older ages. We also find that (a) the relationship between health and own feelings of connectedness is stronger for men and (b) women report better health than men in more connected communities.

Discussion

Our results offer further evidence that at least some social characteristics of the community have a causal impact on health.

Keywords: Community; Health; Loneliness; Social capital; Social conflict

Journal Article.  6822 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Geriatric Medicine ; Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Gerontology and Ageing

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