A social network is a valuable resource in later life. Therefore, the current study aims to investigate whether social networks within homes and neighbourhoods are associated with older adults’ daily fruit and vegetable consumption.
Cross-sectional secondary data analysis.
A nationally representative sample of 6865 community-dwelling older adults over age 53 in the Health and Retirement Study – Health Care and Nutrition Survey.
Older adults who lived alone with no children or friends nearby had the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption. However, the daily fruit and vegetable consumption of respondents who lived alone and had children or friends nearby or those who lived with someone and had no children or friends nearby was not statistically different from those who lived with someone and had children or friends nearby. This suggests that having a social network either at home or in the neighbourhood complements the absence of living with someone or having children or friends nearby and attenuates the negative association between limited social networks and daily fruit and vegetable consumption. A greater decrease in the number of fruits and vegetables consumed was observed among men when they lived alone with no children or friends nearby.
Special attention should be given to older adults with limited social networks, especially older adults living alone with no children or friends nearby. Provision of help with grocery shopping and meal preparation as well as social support networks and more opportunities that can improve social engagement appear to be necessary.