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European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 299–309 | Cite as

Social networks and mental health among older Europeans: are there age effects?

  • Howard Litwin
  • Kimberly J. Stoeckel
  • Ella Schwartz
Original Investigation

Abstract

This study examined different components of personal social networks—structure, interaction, and quality—and the extent to which each is related to mental health among a 65+ sample (n = 26,784) taken from the fourth wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe. The first aim of the study was to determine which network components had the strongest associations with the number of depressive symptoms, measured on the EURO-D scale. Secondly, the study considered if and how age impacted the associations between social network and depression, using interaction terms that paired age category (age 65–79; age 80+) with the score on each network component. Hierarchical OLS regressions revealed that social network quality and network structure were both negatively related to the number of depressive symptoms. The association between network size (structure) and depression was even greater among those 80+. Age differences were also found for network interaction. More frequent contact with the network was related to a greater extent of depressive symptoms, but only among respondents aged 80 and older. Closer geographic proximity was related to having fewer depressive symptoms, but only among respondents aged 65–79. The findings imply that the association between meaningful personal relationships and depression in late life is nuanced by both network characteristics and by age.

Keywords

SHARE Depression Network size Network satisfaction Proximity 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This paper uses data from SHARE wave 4 release 1.1.1, as of March 28, 2013 (doi: 10.6103/SHARE.w4.111). The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th Framework Programme (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the 6th Framework Programme (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812), and through the 7th Framework Programme (SHARE-PREP, No. 211909, SHARE-LEAP, No. 227822 and SHARE M4, No. 261982). Additional funding from 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 and OGHA 04-064) and the German Ministry of Education and Research as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see www.share-project.org for a full list of funding institutions).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard Litwin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kimberly J. Stoeckel
    • 1
  • Ella Schwartz
    • 1
  1. 1.Israel Gerontological Data CenterThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Paul Baerwald School of Social WorkThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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