Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

The role of social support and social networks in smoking behavior among middle and older aged people in rural areas of South Korea: A cross-sectional study

E Hwa Yun1, Yoon Hwa Kang2, Min Kyung Lim1*, Jin-Kyoung Oh1 and Jung Min Son3

Author Affiliations

1 National Cancer Control Institute, Korea National Cancer Center, 323 Ilsan-ro, Ilsandong-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do, 410-769, South Korea

2 Department of Public Health Service, District Health Care Team, Korean Health Industry Development Institute, Daesung Building, 311-27, Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-Gu, 156-050, Seoul, South Korea

3 Department of Social Welfare, Dongguk University, 26, Pil-dong 3-ga, Jung-gu, 100-715, Seoul, South Korea

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:78  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-78

Published: 18 February 2010



Although the number of studies on anti-smoking interventions has increased, studies focused on identifying social contextual factors in rural areas are scarce. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of social support and social networks in smoking behavior among middle and older aged people living in rural areas of South Korea.


The study employed a cross-sectional design. Participants included 1,057 adults, with a mean age of 60.7 years, residing in rural areas. Information on participants' tobacco use, stress, social support, and social networks was collected using structured questionnaires. The chi-square test, the t-test, ANOVA, and logistic regression were used for data analysis.


The overall smoking prevalence in the study was 17.4% (men, 38.8%; women, 5.1%). Overall, stress was high among women, and social support was high among men. Smokers had high levels of social support (t = -2.90, p = .0038) and social networks (t = -2.22, p = .0271), as compared to non- and former smokers. Those in the high social support group were likely to be smokers (AOR = 2.21, 95% CI 1.15-4.26). Women with moderate social ties were less likely to smoke (AOR = 0.18, 95% CI 0.05-0.61).


There was a protective role of a moderate social network level among women, and a high level of social support was associated with smoking behaviors in rural areas. Findings suggest the need for a comprehensive understanding of the functions and characteristics of social contextual factors including social support and social networks in order to conduct more effective anti-smoking interventions in rural areas.