Objectives: To compare the social networks of South Asian (Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) and European-origin participants in the Newcastle Heart Project, and to examine the relationships between social network sizes and coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors in both groups, testing the hypothesis that part of the reason for high rates of CHD in the South Asian UK population may be social isolation.
Design: Participants were 684 South Asian (259 Indians, 305 Pakistanis, 120 Bangladeshis) and 825 European men and women aged 25-74 years, who completed a questionnaire and were screened for CHD risk factors in a cross-sectional study.
Results: South Asians were more likely to be married than Europeans, had bigger households and were more likely to attend a place of worship regularly. Europeans saw more friends and relatives on a regular basis than did South Asians. There was also some heterogeneity between the South Asian groups. Europeans who reported bigger social networks were less likely to smoke than those with smaller networks, but there was little evidence of an association between social network size and waist circumference, blood pressure or TC:HDL ratio in either Europeans or South Asians.
Conclusion: The results provided only partial support for the hypothesis that South Asians in the UK are socially isolated, and suggest that South Asians and Europeans in the UK utilise different sources of social support. Future work should acknowledge variation in sources of social support between ethnic groups, and should explore the possibility that different mechanisms link social support and health in different ethnic groups.