Social ties and support and neuroendocrine function: The MacArthur studies of successful aging
Data from a community-based, relatively high-functioning cohort of men and women, aged 70-79, were used to test hypotheses relating the quantity and quality of social relationships to levels of urinary norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol. For men, multivariate models adjusting for age, chronic conditions, relative weight, smoking, and medications indicated that higher average and maximal frequency of emotional support had the strongest associations with lower levels of all three neuroendocrine parameters. Less consistent patterns of association were seen for other measures of support and social ties among men. Maximum frequency of instrumental support had significant, negative associations with norepinephrine and cortisol but only a marginal association with epinephrine. Number of social relationships was negatively related to only norepinephrine levels. For women, these same measures showed no significant associations, though married women had significantly lower epinephrine levels. More negative aspects of social relationships (e.g. frequency of demands or criticism) were generally unrelated to endocrine levels. Only men showed a significant, positive relationship between higher minimum frequency of such demands and criticism and levels of cortisol. Observed gender differences are consistent with those found in previous studies where more consistent associations between social relationships and health and longevity have been found for men.
Seeman, TE; Berkman, LF; Blazer, D; Rowe, JW
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