Background: Certain features of the social environment could maintain and even improve not only psychological well-being, but also health and cognition of the elderly.
Aims: We tested the association between social network characteristics and the number of chronic diseases in the elderly.
Methods: A randomized sample of the elderly population of Brescia, Italy, was evaluated (N = 200, age ≥65 years). We performed a comprehensive geriatric assessment, including information on socio-demographic variables (family, friendships, and acquaintance contacts). We measured each person’s social network, i.e., degree, efficiency, and variety.
Results: The sample included 118 women and 82 men, mean age 77.7 years. The mean number of chronic diseases was 3.5. A higher social network degree, i.e., more social connections, was associated with fewer diseases. We also found that having more contacts with people similar to each other or intense relationships with people who do not know each other were associated with fewer diseases.
Conclusion: More healthy people tend to share certain characteristics of social networks. Our study indicates that it is important to look at diseases and health as complex phenomena, which requires integrating different levels of analysis.
BIANCHETTI, L., SQUAZZONI, F., CASNICI, N., BIANCHINI, D., GARRAFA, E., ARCHETTI, C. … MARENGONI, A. (2017). Social networks and health status in the elderly: the ‘ANZIANI IN-RETE’ population-based study. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 29(6), pp. 1173-1179.