The importance of social support in attenuating social inequalities in quality of life of older people
Ana Henriques, from the Institute of Public Health, University of Porto and member of the ROSE network – Reducing Old-age Exclusion in Europe, shares evidence of the importance of social support to address social inequalities and people’s quality of life.
The world population is ageing rapidly, with Europe comprising some of the countries with the highest proportion of elderly. Portugal is no exception, having a fifth of the population with at least 65 years. This demographic transition affects all aspects of the society, including health, societal, and economic features and, given the pace and permanent character of this phenomenon, new challenges must be posed in public health agendas.
In fact, living longer does not necessarily means living with a higher quality of life and the process of ageing is unequal. Among older people, social inequalities can be responsible for quality of life variations however, social support might play an important role in this pathway, as it might reduce the effect of adverse events on quality of life.
Through the assessment* of the quality of life of 585 individuals aged 60-84 years, we were able to demonstrate that a less favourable socioeconomic position leads to worst quality of life in late adulthood, whether we look at their level of education, occupation or their perceived income adequacy. Nevertheless, a higher level of social support was capable of reducing or even totally removing the negative effect of a lower socioeconomic position on quality of life.
These results are a call for attention about the importance of social networks, and suggest that future interventions targeting older people should focus on implementing effective social support strategies to improve quality of life.
*These results are part of an ongoing work therefore, no reference for citation can be shared at this stage. These results will be presented in November in ASPHER – European Public Health Conference 2018.
The COST Action on Reducing Old-age Exclusion in Europe (ROSEnet) responds to research, policy and societal challenges with respect to the social exclusion of older people in Europe, and beyond. Know more on their website: http://rosenetcost.com/