We examined the relationship between health-related social disengagements, as opposed to disengagements related to financial and other non-health-related factors, and subsequent risk of disability and death among initially nondisabled elderly diabetic patients enrolled in Medicare Managed Care plans.RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
We used data from the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey (HOS) Cohort 1 Baseline (1998) and Cohort 1 Follow-Up (2000). Through mail and telephone surveys, trained interviewers collected information on sociodemographic variables, physical and mental health functioning (using Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 [SF-36]), activities of daily living (ADL), and medical conditions. This study reported on diabetic subjects aged ≥65 years with no ADL disability at baseline (n = 8,949). Health-related social disengagement (degree to which physical health or emotional problems interfere with social activities) was derived from the social functioning subscale of SF-36 (range 0-100; higher scores depicting better social functioning).RESULTS
For each 10-point increase in social functioning score at baseline, older diabetic subjects in our study experienced an 18% less chance of any ADL disability (odds ratio [OR] 0.82, 95% CI 0.75-0.89; P < 0.001) and a 12% less chance of death (0.88, 0.78-1.00; P = 0.043) over a 2-year period, adjusting for demographic factors, comorbidities, depression, and general health (assessed by the SF-36).CONCLUSIONS
Among initially nondisabled older diabetic subjects, health-related interferences with social activities at baseline may be early warning signs of subsequent ADL disability and premature death, independent of other measures of health status.