Social participation and the prevention of functional disability in older Japanese: the JAGES cohort study

PLoS One. 2014 Jun 12;9(6):e99638. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099638. eCollection 2014.


Background: We examined the relationship between incident functional disability and social participation from the perspective of number of types of organizations participated in and type of social participation in a prospective cohort study.

Method: The study was based on the Aichi Gerontological Evaluation Study (AGES) Cohort Study data. We followed 13,310 individuals aged 65 years or older for 4 years. Analysis was carried out on 12,951 subjects, excluding 359 people whose information on age or sex was missing. Social participation was categorized into 8 types.

Results: Compared to those that did not participate in any organizations, the hazard ratio (HR) was 0.83 (95% CI: 0.73-0.95) for participation in one, 0.72 (0.61-0.85) for participation in two, and 0.57 (0.46-0.70) for participation in three or more different types of organizations. In multivariable adjusted models, participation in the following types of organization was protective for incident disability: local community organizations (HR = 0.85, 95% CI: 0.76-0.96), hobby organizations (HR = 0.75, 95% CI: 0.64-0.87), and sports organizations (HR = 0.64, 95% CI: 0.54-0.81).

Conclusion: Social participation may decrease the risk of incident functional disability in older people in Japan. This effect may be strengthened by participation in a variety of different types of organizations. Participating in a local community, hobby, or sports group or organization may be especially effective for decreasing the risk of disability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asian People / psychology
  • Asian People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Services for the Aged / organization & administration
  • Hobbies / psychology
  • Hobbies / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Primary Prevention* / methods
  • Primary Prevention* / organization & administration
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Participation* / psychology
  • Sports / physiology
  • Sports / psychology

Grants and funding

This study was supported in part by Health Labour Sciences Research Grant, Comprehensive Research on Aging and Health (H25-Choju-Ippan-003 2013-2015 from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (, and Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI 23243070) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.