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Social ties and family support of disabled persons. Socio-economic and regional variations in Italy
Elena Pirani

Last modified: 2015-09-05


A number of studies recognize widely the powerful effects of social relationships on physical and mental health of individuals. There are thus reasons to believe that social and family support, both emotional and material, can be particularly beneficial to well-being of disabled people, but little is known about the characteristics of the link in this population. Literature and empirical studies are particularly lacking for Italy, an interesting case study given the traditional importance of social and family ties in its cultural setting, where, however, family and intergenerational dynamics are dramatically changing in recent years.

The aim of the present work is to investigate the relative importance of socio-economic, relational (both at familial and community level) and contextual factors for subjective well-being of disabled persons in different dimensions of life. In particular, we focus on satisfaction evaluation in the domains of work, family relationships, friends relationships, leisure time, and subjective health.

We use data coming from the Italian survey “Social inclusion of people with functional limitations”, carried out by the Italian Statistical Institute in 2011. Data refer to a sample of more than 3,000 individuals affected by different levels of functional limitations, representing a population of nearly 4 million of Italian disabled persons.

We expect that a strong socio-economic gradient characterizes well-being of disabled persons, however differences can be mitigated by the existence of a solid network of social and family ties. We argue that the contextual environment in which individuals are embedded could also matter. The relative importance of the different sets of factors considered – i.e. socio-economic, relational and contextual – is expected to be differently associated with the various domains of life.

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