Effects of social integration on health: A prospective study of community engagement among African American women

Kate E. Fothergill, Margaret E. Ensminger, Judy Robertson, Kerry M. Green, Roland J. Thorpe, Hee Soon Juon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Research indicates that engagement in community organizations is positively associated with health, particularly among aging populations, yet few studies have examined in detail the influence of community engagement (CE) on later health among African Americans. This study provides a longitudinal assessment of the effects of CE over a 22-year period on physical and mental health among a population of urban African American women. Data were from the Woodlawn Study, a prospective study of children and their families from an African American community in Chicago. Mothers who were assessed in 1975 and in 1997 reported involvement in religious and secular organizations. These reports were combined to create a five-category construct: no CE, early CE only, late CE only, persistent CE (either type at both assessments), and diverse and persistent CE (both types at both assessments). Multivariate regression analyses with multiple imputation (for N = 680) estimated the impact of CE on four measures of physical and mental health: SF-36 physical functioning, self-rated health, anxious mood, and depressed mood. Women with late only, persistent, and diverse and persistent CE reported significantly better health compared to non-involved women. Persistently engaged women were less likely to report anxious or depressed mood than those with early CE only. Persistent and diverse CE was more highly associated with better physical functioning than was persistent CE. Results highlight the strong positive link between health and concurrent, persistent, and diverse CE among African American women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-298
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • African American
  • Aging
  • Community engagement
  • Ethnicity
  • Longitudinal
  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Social integration
  • USA
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of social integration on health: A prospective study of community engagement among African American women'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this