Social support has been shown to influence health outcomes in later life. In this study, we focus on social engagement as an umbrella construct that covers select social behaviors in a life span sample that included oldest-old adults, a segment of the adult population for whom very little data currently exist. We examined relationships among social engagement, positive health behaviors, and physical health to provide new evidence that addresses gaps in the extant literature concerning social engagement and healthy aging in very old adults. Participants were younger (21-59 years), older (60-89 years), and oldest-old (90-97 years) adults (N = 364) in the Louisiana Healthy Aging Study (LHAS). Linear regression analyses indicated that age, gender, and hours spent outside of the house were significantly associated with self-reported health. The number of clubs and hours outside of home were more important factors in the analyses of objective health status than positive health behaviors, after considering age group and education level. These data strongly suggest that social engagement remains an important determinant of physical health into very late adulthood. The discussion focuses on practical applications of these results including social support interventions to maintain or improve late-life health.
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