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The association between social network factors and mental health at different life stages

Abstract

Objectives

Psychosocial factors are important determinants of an individual’s health. This study examines the association between health scores and social network factors on mental health across different life stages.

Methods

Data were drawn from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey for adolescents (n = 1739), adults (n = 10,309) and seniors (n = 2287). Hierarchical regression modelling was applied to examine effects within and across age groups. All the variables were derived from the self-completion questionnaire.

Results

The social network factors were statistically significant predictors of mental health outcomes for all three life stages. For adolescents, the three social network factors were statistically significant with social isolation having the largest impact (β = −.284, p < .001), followed by social connection (β = .084, p < .001) and social trust having a similar effect (β = .073, p < .001). For adults social isolation had the highest impact (β = −.203, p < .001), followed by social connection (β = .110, p < .001) and social trust (β = .087, p < .001).The results for seniors were social isolation (β = −.188, p < .001), social connection (β = .147, p < .001) and social trust (β = .032, p < .05).

Conclusions

After adding the social network factors, the models improved significantly with social isolation playing the most significant role across all life stages, whereas the other social network factors played a differentiated role depending upon the life stage. These findings have practical implications in the design of mental health interventions across different life stages.

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Acknowledgments

This paper uses unit record data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The HILDA Project was initiated and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (Melbourne Institute). The findings and views reported in this paper, however, are those of the author and should not be attributed to either DSS or the Melbourne Institute.

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Correspondence to Andrew Levula.

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Levula, A., Wilson, A. & Harré, M. The association between social network factors and mental health at different life stages. Qual Life Res 25, 1725–1733 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-015-1200-7

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Keywords

  • Mental health
  • Social network
  • Social isolation
  • Emotional status
  • Life stages