Physical Disability, Social Interaction, and Mental Health: A Longitudinal Structural Equation Model Analysis

Raeda Anderson

More than one-third of U.S. adults over 65 have functional limitations (Brault 2012) that can become a significant chronic stressor. Older adults with physical limitations report worse mental health on many indicators, including depression (Bierman and Statland 2010; Fifield et. al 1998), self-esteem (Reitzes and Mutran 2006), positive affect (Caputo and Simon 2013), and loneliness (Warner and Adams 2016). Because functional limitations can restrict older adult’s ability to engage in desired social roles (Verbrugge and Jette1994), associations between disability and mental health may reflect unmet social needs. Prior work has established that social interactions are associated with better mental health (Ozbay et al. 2007; Umberson and Montez 2010). This longitudinal structural equation model uses nationally representative panel data to examine the relationship between disability, social interactions, and mental health for older disabled adults. Disability is associated with lower current and future social interaction and poorer current and future mental health.

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 Presented in Session 13. Resiliency and Successful Aging