Family relations and health over the life course. A Lebanese perspective

The link between family relations and well-being in old age has received ample attention in the international literature, but remains least examined in the Arab region where cultural ideals assume positive intergenerational relations within families as the norm. In this paper, we employ survey data collected in Greater Beirut in 2009 to explore associations between family relations and health. over the life course. We tested (1) the extent to which age and social relation characteristics predict health; and (2) whether the association between age and health is stronger for those who report: smaller social networks and poorer relationship quality. We employed self-rated health and self-reported chronic illness as the health outcome measures and:social network size, positive quality and negative quality with family members as the social relations measures. Our findings suggest that social relations are differentially important depending on the health status indicator examined. The single dimension that influenced both self-rated health and the probability of reporting a chronic illness was positive relationship quality with spouse. Further, social relations, particularly having a negative relationship quality with spouse and adult child, exert stronger effects on both self-rated health and chronic illness for older compared to younger adults. The findings of the present study are important for clinical practitioners who often consider the role and importance of available social resources as they address the health needs of older adults.