Background: The aim of the present work was to investigate the relative importance of socio-demographic and physical health status factors for subjective functioning, as well as to examine the role of social support.
Methods: A cross-sectional health survey was carried out in a Greek municipality. 1356 adults of the general population were included in the study. Personal interviews were conducted with house-to-house visits. The response rate was 91.2%. Functioning has been measured by five indexes: 'The Social Roles and Mobility' scale (SORM), 'The Self-Care Restrictions' scale (SCR), 'The Serious Limitations' scale (SL), 'The Minor Self-care Limitations' scale (MSCR) and 'The Minor Limitations in Social Roles and Mobility' scale (MSORM).
Results: Among the two sets of independent variables, the socio-demographic ones had significant influence on the functional status, except for MSORM. Allowing for these variables, the physical health status indicators had also significant effects on all functioning scales. Living arrangements and marital status had significant effects on four out of five indexes, while arthritis, Parkinson's disease, past stroke and kidney stones had significant effects on the SCR and SL scales.
Conclusions: These results suggest that socio-demographic factors are as important as physical health variables in affecting a person's ability to function normally in their everyday life. Social support appears to play a significant role in explaining differences in subjective functioning: people living alone or only with the spouse, particularly the elderly, seem to be in greater risk for disability problems and should be targeted by preventive programs in the community.