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Work-based social networks and health status among Japanese employees
  1. E Suzuki1,
  2. S Takao1,
  3. S V Subramanian2,
  4. H Doi1,
  5. I Kawachi2
  1. 1
    Department of Epidemiology, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Okayama, Japan
  2. 2
    Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr E Suzuki, Department of Epidemiology, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2-5-1 Shikata-cho, Kita-ku, Okayama 700-8558, Japan; etsuji-s{at}


Background: Despite the worldwide trend towards more time being spent at work by employed people, few studies have examined the independent influences of work-based versus home-based social networks on employees’ health. We examined the association between work-based social networks and health status by controlling for home-based social networks in a cross-sectional study.

Methods: By employing a two-stage stratified random sampling procedure, 1105 employees were identified from 46 companies in Okayama, Japan, in 2007. Work-based social networks were assessed by asking the number of co-workers whom they consult with ease on personal issues. The outcome was self-rated health; the adjusted OR for poor health compared employees with no network with those who have larger networks.

Results: Although a clear (and inverse) dose–response relationship was found between the size of work-based social networks and poor health (OR 1.53, 95% CI 1.03 to 2.27, comparing those with the lowest versus highest level of social network), the association was attenuated to statistical non-significance after we controlled for the size of home-based social networks. In further analyses stratified on age groups, in older workers (⩾50 years) work-based social networks were apparently associated with better health status, whereas home-based networks were not. The reverse was true among middle-aged workers (30–49 years). No associations were found among younger workers (<30 years).

Conclusions: The present study suggests a differential association of alternative sources of social support on health according to age groups. We hypothesise that these patterns reflect generational differences in workers’ commitment to their workplace.

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  • Competing interests None declared.