Which Kinds of Social Networks Reduce Stress in Late Adulthood?
Lea Ellwardt, University of Cologne
Rafael Wittek, University of Groningen
Hsi-Yuan Chen, University of Chicago
Louise Hawkley, University of Chicago
John Cacioppo, University of Chicago
Objective: The aim is to investigate which kinds of social networks reduce stress. It is hypothesized that perceived stress is lowest for older adults embedded in highly connected and balanced networks. Previous research designs have almost exclusively focused on the relationships between an older adult and her direct contacts (ego-alter ties). These designs do not permit assessing connectedness and balance in networks. To address this shortcoming, the current study additionally includes the indirect relationships between an older adult’s contacts (alter-alter ties).
Data/Method: Unique panel data on egocentric networks in an older population stem from the population-based Chicago Health Aging and Social Relations Study (CHASRS). The sample contains five waves collected between 2002 and 2006, with 709 observations from 160 participants aged 50 to 68 years at baseline. Data include information on the participants’ direct and indirect social relationships, i.e. contact frequency and relationship quality for ego-alter ties and alter-alter ties, as well as participants’ perceived stress. Fixed-effects models test whether changes in a person’s network connectedness and balance are associated with changes in the same person’s perceived stress.
Results: Older adults reporting the highest number of balanced relationships (i.e., positive ties among alters) experience least stress. This effect holds independently of socio-demographic confounders, loneliness and network size. There is no stress-reducing effect for network connectedness, suggesting that balance matters more.
Presented in Session 1232: Posters