Associations between self-perceptions of aging and social functioning in older adults: An analysis based on health and retirement study data

Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2024 Apr:119:105307. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2023.105307. Epub 2023 Dec 9.


Objectives: Self-perception of aging (SPA) and social functioning are two important variables in the process of healthy aging, but the relationship between them is still unclear. This study aimed to explore the association between SPA and social functioning in older adults.

Methods: We conducted a longitudinal study utilizing data from the Health and Retirement Study. The sample comprised individuals aged 50 and above. Socio-demographic, psychosocial, and lifestyle information of study participants was systematically collected at baseline (2012 and 2014) and during follow-up four years later (2016 and 2018). SPA was measured using a scale assessing individuals' attitudes toward their aging process. Social functioning was evaluated through 22 questions, reflecting individuals' abilities to engage in and perform various roles and tasks in their daily lives. Multilevel modeling was employed to analyze the relationship between SPA and social functioning. Differences in social functioning changes among various SPA groups were assessed through the Generalized Estimating Equations methodology.

Results: The study included 8,454 participants with an average age of 68.3 years (SD = 9.92). The multilevel model revealed a significant correlation between SPA and social functioning (β = 0.131; P < 0.001). This relationship persisted after adjusting the model (β = 0.088; P < 0.001). Generalized Estimating Equations indicated noteworthy differences in social functioning changes among distinct SPA groups (P = 0.034).

Discussion: Positive SPA is associated with the healthy social functioning of older adults. Healthcare providers could target modifiable aspects of SPA to enhance the social function of older adults and promote successful aging.

Keywords: Attitudes toward own aging; Healthy aging; Human activities.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Retirement*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Interaction*