Relationship Between Social Networks and Social Support Over Time Among Community Dwelling Korean-American and Non-Hispanic White Older Adults
The importance of social networks and social supports for maintaining health has been widely recognized by researchers over the past few decades. In addition, previous studies have confirmed that better access to social networks and social support is associated with better health, especially for older adults and immigrants (Lee et al., 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992). Yet historically, researchers have paid little attention to the minority elders. In light of the need for more knowledge about specific minority older populations, this study focuses on Korean-American elders. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between social networks and social support among Korean-American and non-Hispanic white older adults, and determine whether this relationship changes over time. More precisely, this paper analyzes whether knowing one’s social network characteristics can predict the level of social support one receives in the future.
This analysis is based on the Korean-American Elderly: Social Support and Long Term Care from 1994 and 1995 (N=658). Summary statistics for the given sample along with the cross-lagged panel model were used to test the relationship between social networks and social support. Moreover, the lagged dependent variable approach was used to identify factors that influence perceived levels of social support over time. Given the nature of this aging population, we included all theoretically important variables that were available in the data to capture complex associations between one’s characteristics and social support.
The results showed that social network in the previous year (wave 1) had a positive relationship with the social support score in the following year (wave 2) (b=.24 p<.001). On the other hand, receiving social support in wave 1 had no significant effect on participation in a social network in wave 2. People who felt more respected by family members than others in wave 1 showed an increase in the social support score in wave 2. Education and marital status were associated with the amount of social support one receives in consecutive year.
Conclusions and Implications:
This study extends existing research on social support and social networking among older adults in two ways. First, it focuses on marginalized older adults, especially in the Korean-American population of, who receive relatively little attention in gerontology. Second, it employed panel data, which permits stronger causal inferences than the most past cross-sectional studies. Our findings indicate that one’s social network integration had a positive impact on the amount of social support one receives in the ensuing year. Moreover, older adults who received positive social support also reported that, in the previous year, they felt more respected than other participants in the sample. Being married also demonstrated a positive relationship with social support. However, education correlated negatively with relationship with the one’s level of perceived social support.