Blood pressure levels and longitudinal changes in relation to social network factors
Keywords:blood pressure, social network, cross-sectional, longitudinal
AbstractThe aim of this study was to examine the relationship between social network variables andlevels of and longitudinal changes in blood pressure in a middle-aged/older sample. Theparticipants (50-75 years at baseline; n=1097) responded to questions concerning socialrelationships at baseline and their blood pressure (diastolic, systolic) was measured. Bloodpressure levels were reassessed 5, 10, and 15 years later. Latent growth models with responses toquestions concerning social relationships as predictors and basic demographic factors (age, sex) ascovariates, unexpectedly indicated that a more limited social network (no close friend, few visits,little contact with friends in other ways, not living with someone, and a composite index based onall questions) was associated with significantly lower diastolic blood pressure levels. For systolicblood pressure a similar result was observed for one of the variables (lack of a close friend). Ingeneral, these effects diminished over time, as indexed by the positive relationship between severalof the social variables and slope. The results were little affected by inclusion of additionalcovariates (e.g. measures of psychological distress, smoking/alcohol habits, and BMI) suggestingthat the origins of this unexpected pattern of findings must probably be sought for in other subjectrelatedfactors, such as, for example, increased help seeking. Future studies should considerqualitative aspects (e.g. feelings of loneliness, quality of social relationships) in addition tostructural aspects to provide a better understanding of these associations.