Prevalence of Health Confidants among Older Adults

By Jamila Bookwala and Trent Gaugler.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: August 29, 2016 $US5.00

Confidant relationships are close social relationships in which one can share one’s most personal feelings and concerns. Although the availability of confidants in older samples has been documented, little is known about the availability of health confidants (i.e., confidants in whom elders confide specifically about health issues). Using longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of older adults in the United States, we examined the proportion of health confidants in elders’ confidant networks and differences in these proportions based on self-reported health and sociodemographic factors. Elders had generally stable proportions of health confidants (64% at W1 and 62% at W2). Mental health was significantly associated with proportion of health confidants such that respondents with excellent mental health had significantly higher proportions of health confidants than those with poor/fair or good health. When sociodemographic factors were added, significant Gender x Age and Wave x Change in Relationship Status interactions were obtained. Women had significantly higher proportions of health confidants than men but only until age seventy-nine and respondents who lost a partner from Wave 1 to Wave 2 showed a significant decrease in proportion of health confidants. Furthermore, a significantly higher percentage of health confidants was reported by respondents who were non-Caucasian/White and those who were less educated. Our results indicate that older adults are selective in their choice of health confidants and mental health and sociodemographic factors play a role in elders’ proportion of health confidants.

Keywords: Health Confidants, Confidant Relationships, Older Adults, Aging, Health

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.47-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: August 29, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 816.880KB)).

Prof. Jamila Bookwala

Professor, Department of Psychology, Aging Studies Program, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, USA

Prof. Trent Gaugler

Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics, Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, USA