Contingent association between the size of the social support network and osteoporosis among Korean elderly women

Seungwon Lee, Da Hea Seo, Kyoung Min Kim, Eun Young Lee, Hyeon Chang Kim, Chang Oh Kim, Yoosik Youm, Yumie Rhee

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To investigate the association between the number of personal ties (or the size of the social support network) and the incidence of osteoporosis among older women in Korea. Methods Data from the Korean Urban Rural Elderly Study were used. Bone density was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry at the lumbar spine (L1–L4) and femur neck. T-score, the standardized bone density compared with what is normally expected in a healthy young adult, was measured and the presence of osteoporosis was determined, if the T-score was < -2.5. The social support network size was measured by self-responses (number of confidants and spouse). Results Of the 1,846 participants, 44.9% were diagnosed with osteoporosis. The association between the social support network size and the incidence of osteoporosis was curvilinear in both bivariate and multivariate analyses. Having more people in one’s social support network size was associated with lower risk of osteoporosis until it reached around four. Increasing the social support network size beyond four, in contrast, was associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis. This association was contingent on the average intimacy level of the social network. At the highest average intimacy level (“extremely close”), increasing the number of social support network members from one to six was associated with linear decrease in the predicted probability of osteoporosis from 45% to 30%. However, at the lowest average intimacy level (“not very close”), the predicted probability of osteoporosis dramatically increased from 48% to 80% as the size of the social network increased from one to six. Conclusion Our results show that maintaining a large and intimate social support network is associated with a lower risk of osteoporosis among elderly Korean women, while a large but less-intimate social relationship is associated with a higher risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0180017
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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