Background: We examined the relationship between incident functional disability and social participation from the perspective of number of types of organizations participated in and type of social participation in a prospective cohort study. Method: The study was based on the Aichi Gerontological Evaluation Study (AGES) Cohort Study data. We followed 13,310 individuals aged 65 years or older for 4 years. Analysis was carried out on 12,951 subjects, excluding 359 people whose information on age or sex was missing. Social participation was categorized into 8 types. Results: Compared to those that did not participate in any organizations, the hazard ratio (HR) was 0.83 (95% CI: 0.73-0.95) for participation in one, 0.72 (0.61-0.85) for participation in two, and 0.57 (0.46-0.70) for participation in three or more different types of organizations. In multivariable adjusted models, participation in the following types of organization was protective for incident disability: local community organizations (HR = 0.85, 95% CI: 0.76-0.96), hobby organizations (HR = 0.75, 95% CI: 0.64-0.87), and sports organizations (HR = 0.64, 95% CI: 0.54-0.81). Conclusion: Social participation may decrease the risk of incident functional disability in older people in Japan. This effect may be strengthened by participation in a variety of different types of organizations. Participating in a local community, hobby, or sports group or organization may be especially effective for decreasing the risk of disability.
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