Characteristics in the Personal Network and Mortality Risk in Older Adults

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:10 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Lea ELLWARDT , University of Groningen, Netherlands
Theo VAN TILBURG , VU Amsterdam University, Netherlands
Marja AARTSEN , VU Amsterdam University, Netherlands
Rafael WITTEK , University of Groningen, Netherlands
Nardi STEVERINK , University of Groningen, Netherlands
Research on aging has consistently demonstrated increased chance of survival for older adults who are integrated into rich networks of personal relationships. Theoretical explanations are that personal relationships offer direct behavioral and physiological pathways to longevity, as well as buffer stress and provide coping resources during critical life-events. These pathways often operate independently from age, sex, lifestyle, well-being, chronic diseases and functional limitations. Besides these insights, many studies fail to establish a strong link between social integration into personal networks and risk of mortality. We suggest that the life-prolonging effects may vary considerably across the different conceptualizations of integration into personal networks. Furthermore, research designs need to account for changes in the personal network during the aging process. The objective of this study is to model mortality risk depending on a variety of personal network characteristics, including for example network size, social support and diversity in relationships, e.g. with a variety of family members. We expect most protective effects for complex and multifunctional personal networks (e.g., diversity). Data are from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) and include >2,900 Dutch participants aged 54 to 85 at baseline in 1992 and six follow-ups covering a time span of twenty years. Preliminary findings suggest differential impacts of the personal network characteristics, e.g. there is a reduction in mortality risk for individuals integrated into diverse personal networks.