Older adults are more likely to live alone because their spouses and friends may have died before them. Chronic conditions that make people less mobile could also make it harder for this age group to interact with other people. So, as people get older, they often have less social support, which could affect their health. We don’t know much about how gender affects the link between social support and health in older people. So, this study tests the idea that there are differences between men and women in how older adults feel about their social support, social network, and self-rated health (SRH).
For a cross-sectional study that used two-stage probabilistic sampling, 3,649 people aged 60 and up were chosen. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2006, there was a national campaign to get people vaccinated against the flu. Through individual interviews, information was gathered on SRH, perceived social support, social network, and other factors. For both men and women, separate multivariate logistic regression analyses with nested models were done. There were six groups of independent variables: (1) perceived social support and social network, (2) age group, (3) socioeconomic characteristics, (4) health-related behaviors, (5) use of health care services, and (6) functional status measures and somatic health problems.
Older men who didn’t do group activities were more likely to say their SRH was bad (OR = 1.63; 95% CI = 1.16–2.30) than those who did. Women with low perceived social support were more likely to have poor SRH (OR = 1.64; 95% CI = 1.16–2.34). Men and women with poor SRH were younger, had less money, didn’t work, couldn’t do their jobs well, and were depressed. When women had bad SRH, they had more health problems with their bodies.
The link between social interactions and SRH is different for men and women. Older men with low social network involvement and low perceived social support are more likely to have poor SRH. Older women with low perceived social support are more likely to have poor SRH. It has been proven that the relationship between perceived social support and social networks and SRH is different for men and women.