Carlos Mendes de Leon photo

Dynamic Social Network Structures in Aging: A Complex Systems Approach

a MiCDA Research Project Description

Investigators: Carlos Mendes de Leon, Marisa Cristina Eisenberg

Funding: National Institute on Aging, 2015-2017 (1 R56 AG 048937 01 A1)

The overall aim of this project is to investigate the structure and dynamics of social networks among older adults, and the role of network system-related characteristics in important late-life outcomes, including well- being, cognitive aging, and survival. Previous research suggests that social relationships and the support they provide are important resources to older adults, and associated with better overall health and well-being. But social networks tend to shrink substantially as people age.

This project uses a complex-systems approach and develops a series of simulation models to characterize social network structures of an urban population of older non-Hispanic white and African American adults, as well as the changes in these structures over time. We will use graphical techniques to visualize the network structure and dynamics in this population. We will then use the results of the network analysis in a series of regression models to prospectively test the association between specific network features – e.g., degree of clustering, density, and centrality – and changes in well-being, cognitive outcomes, and mortality. This research is facilitated by the availability of existing data on a large cohort (N > 6,000) of older adults with detailed information over a period of about 10 years on their social network characteristics and other psychosocial and health variables relevant to the outcomes being examined.

Research Signature Theme:

Health and well-being in later life: Life Course Determinants