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Social Networks, Social Cohesion, and Later-Life Health

Deindl, Brandt and Hank (2015)

In Social Indicators Research

Abstract

Our study contributes to the literature acknowledging the joint role of social networks and social cohesion in shaping individual’s health, focusing on the older population aged 50 and over. Exploiting rich ego-centered social network data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe and following the conceptual model of social integration and health proposed by Berkman et al. (Soc Sci Med 51:843–857. doi:10. 1016/S0277-9536(00)00065-4, 2000), we estimate multilevel models of self-reported and observer-measured later-life health outcomes. These models simultaneously account for (a) characteristics of 39,551 respondents’ personal social networks and (b) a measure of social cohesion—namely, participation in social organizations—across 57 Continental European regions, clustered in 14 countries. We find significant associations between individuals’ health and various social network characteristics (size, support, quality) as well as social cohesion. Moreover, cross-level interaction effects suggest that the socialnetwork-health nexus is contextually bound. We conclude with a discussion of limitations and perspectives for future research.