How do older people’s social connections influence their use of preventive health care services?

Most of us have experienced the benefits of having strong and positive social relationships. We also know that a lack of these can lead to social isolation and loneliness – which are connected to illness and early death.

We know less about how social connections can influence our use of preventive health care services, such as screening, flu immunisation or health checks. Is it the quality of our relationships that matters, or how wide our networks are, or how often we are in contact with other people?

Our latest BITE – a postcard “need to know” summary of our published research – presents the findings of our investigation into whether and how social connections affect the use of recommended preventive health service programmes amongst people in their late 60s.

While it is common to target public health initiatives based on where people live or their economic and physical health circumstances, our work suggests using social connectedness indicators may also improve targeting of initiatives to increase preventive healthcare participation.

In addition, our results highlight the value of public health initiatives to increase social networks – itself a benefit beyond improving the uptake of services.