Background: Participating in groups with diverse members is associated with improved health among older adults. The study examined the relationship between diversity of group members and needed support or long-term care.
Methods: We conducted a longitudinal study for the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study with 61,281 participants aged ≥ 65 years who were surveyed in 2013 and followed-up for six years. We assessed three dimensions of the diversity of the participating members (sex, age, and region of residence). We then graded the diversity level into four categories: level 0 (not in any group), level 1 (in a group without diversity or in a group with diversity in one of the three factors), level 2 (in a group with diversity in two of the three factors), or level 3 (in a group with diversity across all factors). We adjusted for 12 covariates using Cox hazard survival analysis models with hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) estimated for the association between group members' diversity levels and needed support or long-term care. The same study was conducted when stratified by employment status at baseline.
Results: Participants in social participation groups with more diverse group members had a lower incidence of needed support or long-term care as compared to their counterparts. Compared to those with no participation group, HR decreased by 14% to 24% with increasing levels of diversity. The HR for the level of care needed for participants in the social participation group with high residential diversity was 0.89 (95% CI: 0.84-0.94). For participants who were currently unemployed, HR reductions ranged from 16%-28% with increasing levels of diversity compared to the non-participating group. No association was found for employed participants.
Conclusions: The reason the HRs of Japanese elderly people certified as needing support or care are lower when the diversity of participating groups is higher could be owing to the presence of a variety of people and the diversification of social networks, which facilitates the building of bridging social relational capital. Public health policies that encourage participation in diverse organizations will be important in the future.
Keywords: Group participation; Long-term care; Longitudinal study; Member diversity; Older adult.
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