Measuring Social Participation in the Health and Retirement Study

Bret T. Howrey, Carri L. Hand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives Large data sets have the potential to reveal useful information regarding social participation; however, most data sets measure social participation via individual items without a global assessment of social participation. Research Design and Methods We used data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to assess whether 8 items from questionnaire pertaining to social participation (religious attendance, caring for an adult, activities with grandchildren, volunteering, charity work, education, social clubs, nonreligious organizations) formed a reliable, cohesive scale and to explore the predictive validity of this scale. We included respondents 65 years and older in the HRS who returned the psychosocial questionnaire in 2010 and 2012 with responses to the social participation items (n = 4,317 and n = 3,978). Three scales were explored: SoPart-30 using the original scoring; SoPart-10 using modified scoring; and SoPart-5 using dichotomous scoring. Results Five items were retained as a single factor for each scale, and graded response models and Mokken scale analysis confirmed the scale items with the SoPart-10 scale having the highest reliability (alpha = 0.74). Discussion and Implications Results suggest that a scale derived from the social participation items in the HRS may be useful in characterizing general social participation levels and identifying modifiable factors that can promote it in older populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e415-e423
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 17 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Factor analysis
  • Methodology
  • Scale development
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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