This study examines gender differences in the pathways among social engagement, physical limitations and cognitive limitations among U.S. older adults. It improves upon previous literature by longitudinally testing both social benefit and selection hypotheses, examining gender differences in these relationships, gaining modeling advantages through structural equation modeling, and by incorporating the frequency of participation in social activities as an important source of social integration that may influence health among older adults. This study uses U.S. panel data of adults aged 60 and older from the Americans' Changing Lives survey (N = 1642) from 1986, 1989, and 1994 in a cross-lagged panel design to better understand these relationships. For women, the flow is from greater social engagement to lower levels of subsequent physical and cognitive limitations, whereas for men the flow is from greater physical and cognitive limitations to lower levels of subsequent social engagement.
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