Objectives: To describe social networks, social support and mental health among non-institutionalized individuals aged 65 years or older of Barcelona (Spain), and to analyze the relationship between mental health and social network and social support in this population by gender and age subgroup.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed. The sample consisted of individuals aged 65 years or more (389 men and 609 women) who took part in the Household Health Survey of Barcelona in 2000. Mental health was screened through the General Health Questionnaire-12 (GHQ-12). A descriptive analysis, as well as bivariate and multivariate analyses (logistic regression), were performed to analyze the association between mental disorders and social network and social support, adjusted by perceived health status and disabilities.
Results: According to the GHQ-12, 21.8% of the women and 9.4% of the men had some mental disorder. Multivariate analysis showed that among men mental disorders were associated with not seeing friends regularly in the subgroup aged 75 years or more (OR = 5.76; 95% CI = 1.77-18.7) and with low social support according to Duke's profile and lack of emotional support in both age groups (65-74 years and 75 years or more). For women, mental disorders were associated with not seeing friends regularly in the subgroup aged 75 years or more and with low social support according to the Duke's profile in both age groups.
Conclusions: Mental health in the elderly population in Barcelona is associated with social network and support. Policies to promote social support could improve mental health in this population.