Social Network Characteristics and Their Associations With Stress in Older Adults: Closure and Balance in a Population-Based Sample

Ellwardt, L., Wittek, R. P. M., Hawkley, L. & Cacioppo, J., 19-Mar-2019, In : The Journals of Gerontology. Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

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  • Final aut- Social network characteristics and their associations with stress in older adults

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Objectives: Integration into social networks reduces stress during adverse life events and improves coping with disability in late life. The aim was to investigate whether social network closure (frequent contact among ties) and balance (positive contact among ties) are associated with perceived stress. We expect lowest stress for older adults with highly closed and balanced networks.
Method: Panel data on self-reported egocentric networks stem from the population-based Chicago Health, Aging, and Social Relations Study. Five waves were collected between 2002 and 2006, with 708 observations from 160 participants aged 50–68 years at baseline. Data include information on the participants’ social relationships, that is, interaction fre- quency and relationship quality, for ego–alter ties and alter–alter ties, and participants’ perceived stress. The analytical strategy used fixed- and random-effects models.
Results: Participants reporting the highest number of balanced relationships (positive ties among alters) experience least stress. This effect holds independently of sociodemographic confounders, loneliness, and network size.
Discussion: The absence of a stress-reducing effect from network closure suggests that balance matters more. Future research would benefit from considering balance when examining the characteristics of social networks that impinge on mental health outcomes in older adults.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology. Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19-Mar-2019


  • Personal networks, Social support, Triad, Well-being

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