Social participation

LASA filenames:

Contact: Bianca Suanet


Social participation are those activities undertaken in and outside the house, that allow individuals to meet others, contribute to society and staying involved in society (Broese van Groenou and Deeg, 2006). Two types of social activities are distinguished: productive and recreational activities. Productive social activities are activities with which the individual contributes his or her resources to individuals or groups in the community through involvement in voluntary and/or political organizations and associations (Klumb & Baltes, 1999). Recreational activities are mainly directed at improving one’s own well-being and self-development such as leisure and educational activities. Various dimensions of social participation are studied in:
1) Participation in productive social activities,
2) Participation in recreational (leisure and educational) activities,
3) Norms about participation,
4) Media-use (TV, radio, newspaper),
5) Self-perceived degree of involvement in society,
6) Computer and internet use,
7) Possession and use of a senior discount card for cultural activities and public transport.

Measurement instruments in LASA

1) Participation in productive social activities
To assess the degree of participation in productive social activities, the respondent was shown a list of organizations or associations such as a political organization, association for the elderly or religious society, and asked to indicate of which (s)he was a member, and whether (s)he visits meetings or activities of the organization or association (no/yes). The total frequency of visiting meetings of any of the associations was recorded on an 8-point scale. In addition, participation in administrative work (e.g. being chairman, treasurer), and in volunteer work (e.g. making coffee, organizing playing card matches) was noted and recorded in minutes per week. Respondents who indicated  to conduct productive activities were asked for the reason of participation, for example to stay mentally and physically fit or to develop or use one’s own capabilities. Respondents who did not participate were asked for reasons of nonparticipation (e.g. not interested, poor health, no transportation).

2a) Participation in recreational activities: Leisure activities
Seven types of leisure activities were presented to the respondent, who had to record if, and if yes, how often (s)he performed each of the seven leisure activities on a 7-point scale. Examples are visiting a cultural institution (cinema, museum, exhibition, art gallery, theatre) and going out on an excursion (to the forest, heath, dunes, nature or entertainment park, recreation area, zoological garden or monuments). In addition, it was asked how many hours a day (recorded in minutes per day) one is busy with hobbies, small jobs and other creative activities in and around the house, such as pottering, puzzling, collecting, reading books, doing needlework, and gardening. Watching TV, using computer and/or listening to the radio is asked separately (see below).

2b) Participation in recreational activities: Education
Several questions were asked about doing trainings and courses. First it was asked whether the respondent followed a training or course in the past year, such as language course, TV course, hobby course, a course at the Open University or community centre (no/yes). If answered affirmative, the respondent was asked to specify the type of education (e.g. Certified diploma/qualification education, creativity course, language course). If respondents indicated to follow a training or course, they were asked to indicate for a list of potential reasons  whether it applied to them on a four-point scale, for example to stay mentally and physically fit or need for company.

3) Norms about social participation
Six norms about social participation were presented to the respondent and they were asked to indicate if they agreed, had no opinion, or disagreed with it. Examples are: “Suppose that someone is and stays capable of doing paid work, until what age is that still meaningful according to you?” and  “Some people think that people over a certain age should not do voluntary work anymore”.

4) Media-use
For both radio and TV, the number of hours the respondent listened to the radio and watched television was noted in hours. Next, the type of programme was asked such as news, commentaries and/or lectures, and films and soaps. Reading the newspaper was registered on a 5 point scale.

5) Self-perceived degree of involvement in society
The degree of involvement in the social world was recorded for various levels; the world, Europe, Dutch society, own province, own municipality and own neighbourhood.

6) Computer and internet use
First, the use of a personal computer was recorded (no/yes). If yes, the hours and minutes per week spent on the computer were noted. Second, five possible computer applications were presented and the respondent indicated which of these were used. Additionally, it was asked whether or not a respondent made use of the internet, and if yes, for what purpose. Two questions were subsequently asked about the exchange of personal support, that is discussing own or others personal feelings by email, chat or another internet contact.

Due to rapid developments in ICT-possibilities and hybridization of cell phones and computers, the questionnaire on computer use was updated in 2011 (LASA-H). The first questions were whether the respondent uses a personal computer (i.e. all devices that has computer functionalities such as PC, laptop, iPAD, iPhone or androids), and/or a cell phone for calling and receiving or sending text messages. If a computer was used, the hours per week worked with the computer was recorded. For calling and/or text messaging with a cell phone, the frequency of use was asked on a 5-point scale. If respondents did not use a computer and/or a cell phone, the respondent was asked to indicate their reason(s) for not using them. The next question was whether respondents made use of the internet, and if yes, for which purpose (e.g. surfing, online banking). For those who used internet, it was asked how often they had social contacts with family, friends and neighbors. Finally, it was asked whether the respondent needed help with the computer or cell phone (no/yes) and if yes, whom they could rely on.

In 2018, for the LASA-J wave, the questionnaire on computer and internet use was updated once again to reflect the expansion of options that people have to use the internet since the last update in 2011. We included amongst others playing games, arranging services such as professional home care, help and transportation, making appointments with GP and other medical specialists, watching movies and/or listening to music, and using government services (MijnOverheid). Also, the questions on computer and internet use now explicitely refer to the desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone, as these are all devices by which people use the internet today.

7) Possession and use of a senior discount card
Respondents indicated whether they possessed a senior card, the so called ‘65+ pas’ (for women 60+) which was provided by the municipality, and how often they had used this card in the past year to get a reduction for a visit to cultural institutes such as theatre, museum and  cinema, or to get a discount in public transport. The senior card was developed to stimulate people 65 and over to remain active and stay involved in society. The senior card became redundant since January 2005 when the act on identification came into effect. This act prescribes that Dutch citizens must possess an identity card (Ministry of Security and Justice). The identity card replaced the senior card, but profits and discounts remained the same for people aged 65 and over.


LASAB070 / LASAC070 / LASAD070 / LASAE070 / LAS2B070 / LASAF070 / LASAG070 / LASAH070 / LAS3B070 / LASMB070 / LASAI070 / LASAJ070 / LASAK070 (main interview, in Dutch);
LASAB125 / LASAC125 / LASAD125 / LASAE125 / LAS2B125 / LASAF125 / LASAG125 (self-administered questionnaire, in Dutch)

Variable information

LASAB070 / LASAC070 / LASAD070 / LASAE070 / LAS2B070 / LASAF070 / LASAG070 / LASAH070 / LAS3B070 / LASMB070 / LASAI070 / LASAJ070 / LASAK070  (I, J and K not available yet)
LASAB125 / LASAC125 / LASAD125 / LASAE125 / LAS2B125 / LASAF125 / LASAG125

Availability of information per wave


Participation in productive
activities (1)
Participation in leisure
activities (2a)
Participation in educational
activities (2b)
Norms about social
participation (3)
Media use (4)

Self-perceived degree of
involvement in society (5)
Computer and internet use (6)

Senior card (7)


¹ More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.

* 2B=baseline second cohort;
3B=baseline third cohort;
MB=migrants: baseline first cohort;
I, J, K=not available yet

Ma=data collected in main interview (LASA070);
Sa=data collected in self-administered questionnaire (LASA125)

Previous use in LASA

The degree of social participation has been described cross-sectionally (Van Rijsselt, 1994) and over time (Knipscheer et al, 1998). It has been associated with cognitive decline (Smits, 1995; Aartsen et al., 2002; Aartsen, 2003), with personality characteristics (Timmer and Aartsen, 2003), and in relation to general well being and successful aging (Fagerström and Aartsen, 2013). But ADHD does not affect social participation and work participation (Michielsen et al., 2015). Aspects of social participation have also been studied in relation to poverty (Lamme et al., 1998), retirement (Cozijnsen et al., 2013) . The use of computer and internet, as well as its implications for personal social networks of older adults and loneliness have been studied (Stegeman, 2006; Broersen, 2010), and changes in social participation related to societal dynamics, including societal developements such as individualization and social policy changes (Suanet, 2013; Scharn et al., 2019).

  • Aartsen, M.J. (2003). On the interrelationship between cognitive and social functioning in older age. PhD Dissertation, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
  • Aartsen, M.J. (2003). The mutual relations between cognitive performance and everyday activities in old age. Research and Practice in Alzheimer’s Disease, 7, 23-29.
  • Aartsen, M.J., Smits, C.H.M., Van Tilburg, T.G., Knipscheer, C.P.M. & Deeg, D.J.H (2002). Activity in older adults: Cause or consequence of cognitive functioning? A longitudinal study on everyday activities and cognitive performance in older adults. Journal of Gerontology, 2, 153-162.
  • Berner, J.S., Aartsen, M.J., Wahlberg, M., Elmstahl, S., Berglund, J.S., Anderberg, P., Deeg, D.J.H. (2016).A cross-national and longitudinal study on predictors in starting and stopping Internet use (2001-2013) by Swedish and Dutch older adults 66 years and above.Gerontechnology, 14, 157-168.
  • Berner, J.S., Comijs, H.C., Elmstahl, S., Welmer, A.K., Berglund, J.S., Anderberg, P., Deeg, D.J.H. (2019).Maintaining cognitive function with internet use: a two-country, six-year longitudinal study. International Psychogeriatrics, 31, 929-936.
  • Broersen, A (2010). Internets’ social support antagonist for loneliness in older Age in the Netherlands. Amsterdam, Masterthesis European Master in Gerontology.
  • Broese van Groenou, M.I. (2006). Social participation of the 55-64 year olds: is the new generation more socially active than its predecessor? Tijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie, 37, 218-225.
  • Broese van Groenou, M.I. en Deeg, D.J.H. (2006). Veranderingen in sociale participatie. In: A. de Boer (red.), Rapportage Ouderen 2006, pp. 215-238. Den Haag: SCP.
  • Broese van Groenou, M.I. & Deeg, D. J.H. (2010). Formal and informal social participation of the ‘young-old’ in The Netherlands in 1992 and 2002. Ageing and Society, 30, 445-465.
  • Broese van Groenou, M.I., Van Tilburg, T.G. (2012). Six-year follow-up on volunteering in later life: a cohort comparison in the Netherlands. European Sociological Review, 28, 1-11.
  • Cozijnsen, M.R., Stevens, N.L., Van Tilburg, T.G. (2013). The trend in sport participation among Dutch retirees, 1983-2007. Ageing & Society, 33, 698-719.
  • Deeg, D.J.H. (2019).Use of internet maintains cognitive functioning. Gerõn, Tijdschrift over ouder worden & samenleving, 21, 4, 15.
  • Fagerström, J., Aartsen, M.J. (2013). Successful aging and its relationship to contemporary norms. A critical look at the call to “age well”. Recherches Sociologiques et Anthropologiques, 44, 51-73.
  • Knipscheer, CPM., Broese van Groenou, MI., Van Rijsselt, R.J.T (1998). Determinants of changes in societal participation.In Deeg, D.J.H., Beekman, A.T.F., Kriegsman, D.M.W., & Westendorp-de Serière, M. (Eds.). Autonomy and well-being in the aging population II: Report from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam 1992-1996 (pg. 141-147). Amsterdam: VU University Press. ISBN 90-5383-622-5.
  • Lamme, S.P., Linnemann, M.A., Deeg, D.J.H., & Schuyt, T.N.M. (1998). Armoede, Sociale participatie en eenzaamheid bij ouderen [Poverty, Social participation and loneliness in older persons]. In G. Engbersen, J.C. Vrooman, & E. Snel (Eds.), Effecten van armoede. Derde jaarrapport armoede en Sociale uitsluiting [Effects of poverty. Third annual report poverty and social exclusion] (pp. 129-141). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
  • Michielsen, M., Comijs, H.C., Aartsen, M.J., Semeijn, E., Beekman, A.T.F., Deeg, D.J.H., Kooij, J.J.S. (2015). The relationships between ADHD and social functioning and participation in older adults in a population-based study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 19, 368-379.
  • Scharn, M., Van der Beek, A., Suanet, B.A., Huisman, M. (2019).Societal participation of individuals aged 55-64 years with and without chronic disease.The European Journal of Public Health, 29, 93-98.
  • Smits, C.H.M., van Rijsselt, R.T.J., Jonker, C., & Deeg, D.J.H. (1995). Social participation and cognitive functioning in older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 10, 325-331.
  • Stegeman, A. (2006) Virtuele vrienden: een onderzoek naar de invloed van internet op persoonlijke netwerken van ouderen. Amsterdam: VU Scripties (Masterthesis Sociale Gerontologie).
  • Suanet, B.A., Broese van Groenou, M.I., Braam, A.W. (2009). Changes in volunteering among young old in the Netherlands between 1992 and 2002: the impact of religion, age-norms, and intergenerational transmission. European Journal of Ageing, 6, 157-165.
  • Suanet, B.A. (2013). Societal dynamics and older adults’ social functioning. PhD Dissertation, VU University Amsterdam.
  • Timmer, E.M.G., & Aartsen, M.J. (2003) Mastery beliefs and productive leisure activities in the third age. Social Behavior and Personality, 31, 643-656.
  • Van Rijsselt, R.J.T. (1994). Societal participation. In D.J.H. Deeg, M. Westendorp-de Seriere (Eds.), Autonomy and well-being in the aging population 1. Report from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam 1992-1993 (pp. 97-102). Amsterdam: VU Uitgeverij.


  1. Broese van Groenou, M.I. and Deeg, D.J.H. (2006). Veranderingen in sociale participatie. In: A. de Boer (red.), Rapportage Ouderen 2006, pp. 215-238. Den Haag: SCP.
  2. Klumb, P. L., & Baltes, M. M. (1999). Time use of old and very old Berliners: Productive and consumptive activities as functions of resources. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 54, S271-S278.

Date of last update: April, 2020