In a follow-up study of 70-95 years old women and men (n = 911) we studied the association between change and stability in three structural aspects of social relations (contact frequency, contact diversity, cohabitation status) from 1986-1990 and mortality after the next four years in 1994. Women aged 70-74 years who developed low contact frequency or developed small contact diversity showed significantly higher mortality, adjusted ORfreq: 3.78 (1.08-13.20), adjusted ORdiv: 3.79 (1.24-11.58). Women aged 70-74 years with continuously low contact frequency showed an increased mortality compared to women constantly experiencing high contact frequency, adjusted OR: 2.75 (1.04-7.26). A tendency in the same direction for sustained small contact diversity was found, adjusted OR: 1.98 (0.70-5.61). Among women aged 75+ years no impact of frequency and diversity was demonstrated, whereas continuously living alone was a significant predictor of mortality, when compared to women continuously living with somebody, adjusted OR: 2.57 (1.29-5.09). In men, we found a significantly increased mortality among those who developed high contact frequency and developed large contact diversity ORfreq: 3.91 (1.02-14.94) and ORdiv: 6.04 (1.30-28.03). In summary, we found rather larger age differences in the strength of the association between change in structural social relations and mortality. Furthermore, the associations seemed stronger among women than men, which may however mainly be explained by the small number of men in our cohort.
Keywords: Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Analysis of Variance; Cohort Studies; Confidence Intervals; Denmark; Female; Humans; Interpersonal Relations; Life Change Events; Life Style; Longitudinal Studies; Male; Mortality; Multivariate Analysis; Odds Ratio; Quality of Life; Risk Assessment; Sex Distribution; Social Isolation; Social Support