Changes in Social Networks and Changes in Health: What Drives What?

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:55
Oral Presentation
Martina BRANDT, TU Dortmund, Germany
Christian DEINDL, TU Dortmund, Germany
In the social sciences, there is a plethora of studies on the influences of social networks and their characteristics on different health outcomes. Many of them acknowledge the fact that the opposite direction (health influencing social networks, e.g. in terms of support received or participation in social events) is a very obvious one, some partly control for reverse causality, but not many specifically analyze this influence. Our study considers the complex relationship between health and social networks from a longitudinal perspective. Specifically, the analysis examines network size, composition and social support exchange in relation to self-rated and functional health. The data are drawn from the German Ageing Survey (DEAS), which includes information about health and social networks (using a name generator) of Germans aged 40 and more over a period of 18 years (1996–2014). In a first step, we estimate fixed-effects models to disentangle the influences of changes in social networks on health and vice versa. In the second step, we use a cross-panel design in order to analyze specific connections between different aspects of social networks and health. First results indicate significant effects of health on social networks and vice versa over time, with different (in-)dependent measures leading to quite different substantial conclusions. In particular, social support is important for health when direct and indirect paths between health and social network charateristics are incorporated into the analytical model.