European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 359–367 | Cite as

Social network changes among older Europeans: the role of gender

  • Ella Schwartz
  • Howard Litwin
Original Investigation


This study examined changes in the social networks of older Europeans. It utilizes the framework of the socioemotional selectivity theory and the convoy model to explore the social networks’ changes over time, as well as the turnover of specific social network members. Furthermore, the study analyzed gender as a predictor of these transformations. The inquiry focused on older adults aged 65+ who participated in the fourth and sixth waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (n = 13,938). The findings reveal a general trend of network expansion over time, with addition of new members and a higher proportion of family ties. These trends mask considerable individual variability in change trajectories, however. A series of OLS and Poisson regressions revealed that women were more likely to report network growth via addition of new social network members, and lower family involvement. These findings underscore the dynamic nature of older Europeans’ interpersonal milieu. They also underscore the role of gender in social network transformations and show that the dynamics of older Europeans’ personal networks differ for men and women.


Social networks SHARE Longitudinal Health Gender 



The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through FP5 (QLK6-CT-2001-00360), FP6 (SHARE-I3: RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE: CIT5-CT-2005-028857, SHARELIFE: CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and FP7 (SHARE-PREP: No. 211909, SHARE-LEAP: No. 227822, SHARE M4: No. 261982). Additional funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research, the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01_AG09740-13S2, P01_AG005842, P01_AG08291, P30_AG12815, R21_AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG_BSR06-11, OGHA_04-064) and from various national funding sources is gratefully acknowledged (see


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Israel Gerontological Data Center, Paul Baerwald School of Social WorkThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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