Physical disability and social interaction: Factors associated with low social contact and home confinement in disabled older women (the women's health and aging study)

Eleanor M. Simonsick, Judith D. Kasper, Caroline L. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives. This study examines the association of disability and social interaction, measured as in-person contact with non-household members and home confinement, and identifies sociodemographic, socioeconomic, and healthrelated factors that modify this relationship. Methods. Participants were 1,002 moderately to severely disabled community-dwelling women aged 65 and older from the Women's Health and Aging Study, identified by screening an age-stratified random sample of Medicare beneficiaries in Baltimore, Maryland. Logistic regression models were used to estimate the odds of low social interaction associated with disability and each independent modifier Results. In a typical week, 23% did not visit with anyone residing outside their households and 17% did not leave their homes. In addition to and independent of disability level, older age, not completing high school, having a driver in the home, hearing difficulties and incontinence were associated with low social contact; older age and African American race were related to home confinement. African American women living alone are especially vulnerable to home confinement. Discussion. Physical disability is not necessarily socially disabling, as many of the most severely disabled in our study had at least daily social interaction. Improvements in social interaction appear possible through more effective management of certain health conditions and attention to potential sociocultural bawlers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S209-S217
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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