Confidant network types and well-being among older europeans

Howard Litwin, Kimberly J Stoeckel
Gerontologist 2014, 54 (5): 762-72

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: To derive a typology of confidant networks among older adults in Europe and to examine them in relation to country differences and well-being (CASP-12).

DESIGN AND METHODS: The study population was composed of persons aged 65 and older in 16 countries from the 4th wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (N = 28,697). K-means cluster analysis was applied to data from a newly implemented name-generating network inventory. CASP-12 scores were regressed on network type controlling for country and potential sociodemographic and health confounders.

RESULTS: Six prototypical confidant network types were discerned, including proximal and distal family-based networks of varying configurations, as well as friend-based and other-based network types. Regional country differences in network type constellations were observed. Better well-being was found to be associated with network types with greater social capital. Respondents with no named confidants had the lowest CASP-12 scores, and those embedded in "other" network types also exhibited a negative association with well-being.

IMPLICATIONS: The study demonstrates the utility of name-generating network inventories in understanding the social capital of older persons. It also shows that accessible family ties are strong correlates of well-being in this population. Finally, it documents the importance of improving the means to detect the small but significant subgroup of isolated older people-those who have no confidants on whom they may rely.

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