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Assessing structure and characteristics of social networks among cancer survivors: impact on general health

  • Nicolette Payne
  • Elizabeth Palmer Kelly
  • Timothy M. PawlikEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

Purpose

Robust social networks are associated with improved health and quality of life for cancer survivors. Certain cancer diagnoses are associated with higher levels of stigma than breast cancer. However, little is known about the differences in social networks depending on the type of malignancy. This study aims to assess the differences in social networks and general health between breast cancer and more stigmatized cancers.

Methods

Cancer survivors were recruited to participate in a cross-sectional online survey study. Social network size and satisfaction was measured using the Cancer Survivor Social Networks Measure. General health was measured with a five-point-Likert-style item.

Results

The average age of the sample (n = 99) was 57.6 years old (SD = 13.4) and the majority were female (67.7%). Breast cancer survivors had an average of 1.39 more members in their social network than other cancers (t(94) = 2.28, p = 0.025). There were no significant differences between groups in network satisfaction. Results of a binary logistic regression model explained 26.9% of the variance in general health (x2(5) = 18.35, p = 0.003). There was a significant association among formal support network satisfaction (β = − 1.23, p = 0.021), formal support network size (β = − 0.36, p = 0.019), malignancy type (breast vs. other) (β = 1.05, p = 0.05), and better general health.

Conclusions

The results suggest breast cancer survivors had more formal social supports then other malignancy types. An association among greater formal social network size and satisfaction, a diagnosis of breast instead of other cancers, and better general health was noted. Emphasizing formal support sources for all cancer survivors may improve their overall health.

Keywords

Social network size Social network satisfaction Social support General health Stigma 

Notes

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ohio State University College of MedicineColumbusUSA
  2. 2.The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer CenterColumbusUSA
  3. 3.Department of SurgeryThe Ohio State University, Wexner Medical CenterColumbusUSA

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