Transitions in types of social networks over time in older adults

This article was originally published here

Gerontology. 2022 Jan 13:1-12. doi: 10.1159/000521213. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: Network typology studies have identified heterogeneous types of older people’s social networks. However, little is known about the stability and evolution of social network types over time. We study the transitions in the types of social networks in older people, aged 60 and over, and the factors associated with these transitions.

METHODS: We used data on 1305 older people, participating in 2 waves of a national longitudinal survey, conducted in 2016-2017 and 2019, in Singapore. Latent transition analysis identified distinct types of social networks and their transition patterns between waves. Multinomial logistic regression examined the association of baseline and change in physical, functional, and mental health and baseline sociodemographic characteristics with network transitions to more diverse or less diverse types.

RESULTS: We found 5 types of social networks at both waves, representing the most diverse to least diverse types – diverse, single and diverse, extended family, immediate and restricted family. Between waves, about 57% of respondents maintained their social network type, while 24% moved to more diverse types and 19% to less diverse types. Those who were older and less educated and those with deteriorating functional and mental health were more likely to switch to less diverse types than to stay in the same type.

DISCUSSION: The findings capture the dynamics of social network composition among older adults in contemporary aging society. We highlight sociodemographic and health disparities contributing to the diversity of social networks later in life.

PMID:35026756 | DO I:10.1159/000521213