Confidant network types and well-being among older europeans

Gerontologist. 2014 Oct;54(5):762-72. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnt056. Epub 2013 Jun 7.


Purpose of the study: To derive a typology of confidant networks among older adults in Europe and to examine them in relation to country differences and well-being (CASP-12).

Design and methods: The study population was composed of persons aged 65 and older in 16 countries from the 4th wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (N = 28,697). K-means cluster analysis was applied to data from a newly implemented name-generating network inventory. CASP-12 scores were regressed on network type controlling for country and potential sociodemographic and health confounders.

Results: Six prototypical confidant network types were discerned, including proximal and distal family-based networks of varying configurations, as well as friend-based and other-based network types. Regional country differences in network type constellations were observed. Better well-being was found to be associated with network types with greater social capital. Respondents with no named confidants had the lowest CASP-12 scores, and those embedded in "other" network types also exhibited a negative association with well-being.

Implications: The study demonstrates the utility of name-generating network inventories in understanding the social capital of older persons. It also shows that accessible family ties are strong correlates of well-being in this population. Finally, it documents the importance of improving the means to detect the small but significant subgroup of isolated older people-those who have no confidants on whom they may rely.

Keywords: Family ties; Isolation; SHARE; Social capital; Social network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Community Health Services
  • Emotions
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Retirement / psychology*
  • Social Environment
  • Social Support*
  • White People / psychology*