Social Engagement and All-Cause Mortality: A Focus on Participants of the Minority Aging Research Study

Am J Prev Med. 2022 Nov;63(5):700-707. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2022.05.005. Epub 2022 Jul 16.


Introduction: Social engagement is known to improve health; less is known about whether social activities at the core of African American life decrease mortality risk in this minoritized population. This study investigated whether and which aspects of social engagement predict mortality risk in older African Americans.

Methods: Data from 768 African Americans (aged ∼73 years; nondemented at baseline) participating in the Minority Aging Research Study, a longitudinal community-based, cohort study of aging, was collected between 2004 and 2020 and analyzed in 2020. Participants self-reported late-life social activity, social network size, life space, and purpose in life at baseline and completed approximately 6.5 years of annual follow-up (range=15.70). Cox models included time from baseline to death or censoring and an indicator for death versus censored with age, sex, education, cardiovascular disease risk factor burden, depressive symptomatology, and motor gait performance as covariates.

Results: As of March 2020, 25% of participants died (n=192; age at death ∼83 years). In fully adjusted Cox models, mortality risk decreased by 34% (hazard ratio=0.66; 95% CI=0.48, 0.91; p=0.012) for those with higher compared with that for those with lower social activity generally, with community/volunteer-, group-, and socially-related activities specifically driving these results.

Conclusions: Engaging in late-life social activity, especially group- and socially-based activities, was most consistently and robustly associated with reduced mortality risk in African Americans regardless of health. These results lay the foundation for considering community-based approaches to increase and/or maintain social participation in older African Americans as a potential means by which to increase longevity in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Cohort Studies
  • Geroscience*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Social Participation*