Social network types and well-being among South Korean older adults

Sojung Park, Jacqui Smith, Ruth E Dunkle
Aging & Mental Health 2014, 18 (1): 72-80

OBJECTIVE: The social networks of older individuals reflect personal life history and cultural factors. Despite these two sources of variation, four similar network types have been identified in Europe, North America, Japan, and China: namely 'restricted', 'family', 'friend', and 'diverse'. This study identified the social network types of Korean older adults and examined differential associations of the network types with well-being.

METHOD: The analysis used data from the 2008 wave of the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging (KLoSA: N = 4251, age range 65-108). We used a two-step cluster analytical approach to identify network types from seven indicators of network structure and function. Regression models determined associations between network types and well-being outcomes, including life satisfaction and depressive symptomatology.

RESULTS: Cluster analysis of indicators of network structure and function revealed four types, including the restricted, friend, and diverse types. Instead of a family type, we found a couple-focused type. The young-old (age 65-74) were more likely to be in the couple-focused type and more of the oldest old (age 85+) belonged to the restricted type. Compared with the restricted network, older adults in all other networks were more likely to report higher life satisfaction and lower depressive symptomatology.

DISCUSSION: Life course and cohort-related factors contribute to similarities across societies in network types and their associations with well-being. Korean-specific life course and socio-historical factors, however, may contribute to our unique findings about network types.

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