Social network types and subjective well-being in Chinese older adults

Sheung-Tak Cheng, Coty K L Lee, Alfred C M Chan, Edward M F Leung, Jik-Joen Lee
Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 2009, 64 (6): 713-22
The study examined social network types in a sample of 1,005 older Chinese adults in Hong Kong and the networks' relations to subjective well-being. Given the nature of kinship in Chinese society, we broke down social support provision by closeness of blood ties (immediate kin, distant kin, and non-kin). Using K-means cluster analysis, we identified 5 network types: diverse, friend focused, restricted, family focused, and distant family. The latter was characterized by few immediate kin but mostly distant kin. Diverse and family-focused networks were most beneficial to well-being, whereas restricted networks were least. Distant family networks were associated with only marginally lower well-being than family-focused networks and were comparable to friend-focused networks. Results suggested the importance of the extended family in support provision for Chinese older adults, especially in the absence of immediate kin and friends. Implications of the present findings for other cultural groups are discussed.

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