Background: This article provides new insights into the impact of social engagement on CVD risk factors in older adults. We hypothesized that objective (social participation, social ties and marital status) and subjective (emotional support) aspects of social engagement are independently associated with objective measures of cardiovascular risk.
Methods: Data from the English Longitudinal Study on Ageing (ELSA) were analyzed. The effects of social participation, social ties, marital status, and emotional support on hypertension, obesity, high sensitivity C-reactive protein, and fibrinogen were estimated by logistic regression controlling for age, sex, education, physical function, depression, cardiovascular disease, other chronic diseases, physical activity, and smoking.
Results: Social participation is a consistent predictor of low risk for four risk factors, even after controlling for a wide range of covariates. Being married is associated with lower risk for hypertension. Social ties and emotional support are not significantly associated with any of the cardiovascular risk factors.
Conclusion: Our analysis suggests that participation in social activities has a stronger association with CV risk factors than marital status, social ties or emotional support. Different forms of social engagement may therefore have different implications for the biological risk factors involved.