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Still in touch: family contact, activities and health among the elderly in Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI).
2001 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Study I. Child-Parent Contacts. A study of family contacts between adult children and parents in Sweden The aim of this study is to examine how often adult children and parents are in contact. In focus is the relative impact of individual, family, and social-structural characteristics, and geographical distance on intergenerational contacts. Nationally representative Swedish data for parents aged 55 to 84 shows that most children and parents are in frequent contact with each other. The most consistent predictors are parental living arrangements and family stability, when geographical proximity had been adjusted for. Relationships with parents living alone were generally weaker than was contact with cohabiting parents, especially for fathers. Separation from a parent during a child’s upbringing is associated with a lower frequency of contact, and increases the likelihood of the two generations living at a great distance from each other. Geographical proximity tends to increase the likelihood of weekly contacts between parents and daughters. That is, it is only when we look at child-parent pairs living near each other that we find sons being less likely than daughters to have weekly contact with mothers. This result is not found for fathers, which indicates that the mother-daughter bond is the most active type of intergenerational relationship. This is also shown by the frequent phone contacts between daughters and mothers. It is also more common for mothers than for fathers and for daughters than for sons to compensate for less face-to-face contact with weekly phone contact. The results also suggest that family contact has been through a relatively stable period, between 1984/1985 and 1992/1993 in Sweden. Study II. Social Class Mobility and Intergenerational Contact. A study of social contacts between adult children and their elderly parents in Sweden The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between socio-economic status and family contacts. Both the elderly parents’ social class position, as well as their children’s social class position are taken into account. The influence of social class mobility or stability on social contacts between the generations is investigated, by use of nationally representative Swedish data for the age group 77 to 98 years (N=537). The results demonstrate that children classified as non-manual workers, irrespective of class origin, socialise less frequently with their parents than children of other classes do. However, when geographical distance is controlled for, only stable non-manual workers have significantly less contact. This suggests that social class mobility has little impact on continuing family relations, and that mobile children do not socialise less with their families. Where this is the case it is a consequence of geographical distance. Study III. Social Ties and Health Among the Very Old in Sweden Research since the 1970s has documented a positive relationship between social ties (despite large variations in measures) and health. Studies of the elderly have also indicated that the effect may vary according to source of contact. Using nationally representative Swedish data for the age group 77 to 98 (N=537), this study examines differences in the effect of social contact on health outcomes, controlling for source of social contact. It also addresses the issue that causality may possibly be reversed. The results indicate that social contacts with friends are related to well-being, and that consequently fewer contacts lead to less well-being. This relationship is valid, independent of earlier health status. The results indicate that it is essential that studies of the relationship between social contact and health not only distinguish between different sources of social contact, but also that they address a range of health problems. Study IV. Does Engagement-with-Life Enhance Survival of the Oldest Old In Sweden? The Role of Social and Leisure Activities The goal of this research was to examine whether engagement with life (Rowe & Kahn, 1998) defined as involvement in social, leisure, and productive activities - produced a survival advantage among the oldest-old in Sweden. Survival was investigated with respect to activities that involved: (a) social integration, (b) physical mobility, and (c) engagement that is neither social nor physical in nature. We also investigated the degree to which any observed health benefits are related to prior health differences that select older adults into active roles. Baseline data derived from the Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old (SWEOLD), a nationally representative sample of persons age 77 years and older who were living in Sweden in 1992. Factor analysis was used to apply a simplifying measurement structure to frequency of participation in 10 leisure activities. Cox proportional hazard regression was used to estimate the relative effects of activity factors and other independent variables on the logged hazard rate of mortality up to 1996. The results of our analyses revealed four domains of activities that lie along two basic axes: solitary-social and sedentary-active. Among men, only participation in solitary-active types of activities was significantly associated with reduced mortality risk when health variables were controlled. Among women, none of the activity domains was significant when previous health status were controlled for. For the entire sample, solitary-active activities significantly reduced risk of mortality when adjusting for all other activity domains and health factors. Findings from this study revealed that most of the observed associations between activity involvement and survival were a byproduct of the confound between poor initial health and low activity levels. However, solitary activities that were not explicitly social in nature had a positive influence on the survival of very old individuals, especially among men, suggesting that intra-psychic factors may be key in promoting health and longevity in late old age. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: The Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University , 2001. , 22 p.
Series
Swedish Institute for Social Research, ISSN 0283-8222 ; 48
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-72241ISBN: 91-7604-085-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-72241DiVA: diva2:490727
Public defence
2001-04-20, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Note

Härtill 4 uppsatser

Available from: 2012-02-06 Created: 2012-02-06 Last updated: 2017-07-11Bibliographically approved

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