Social Networks in the NSHAP Study: rationale, measurement, and preliminary findings.J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009 Nov; 64 Suppl 1:i47-55.JG
This paper describes the rationale behind the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project's (NSHAP) social networks module, data collection procedures, and the measurement of several egocentric network properties. This includes a discussion of network size, composition, volume of contact with network members, density, and bridging potential. Data on the extent to which older adults involve network members in personal health matters are also discussed.
Descriptive statistics are presented for key network measures. Sociodemographic distributions of these measures are presented. Older adults' likelihood of discussing health with network members is also broken down by network member characteristics.
Older adults tended to have large, kin-centered, dense networks, with some bridging potential. Network characteristics were related to age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, and health. Older adults tended to be very likely to involve network members (especially close ties) in health discussions and medical decision making.
The data reiterate the relevance of social networks to older adults' health. We close by discussing how the NSHAP measures might be employed in future analyses of health.