Gender Differences in Social Support Received by Informal Caregivers: A Personal Network Analysis Approach

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Dec 31;16(1):91. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16010091.


Social support is an important predictor of the health of a population. Few studies have analyzed the influence of caregivers' personal networks from a gender perspective. The aim of this study was to analyze the composition, structure, and function of informal caregiver support networks and to examine gender differences. It also aimed to explore the association between different network characteristics and self-perceived health among caregivers. We performed a social network analysis study using a convenience sample of 25 female and 25 male caregivers. A descriptive analysis of the caregivers and bivariate analyses for associations with self-perceived health were performed. The structural metrics analyzed were density; degree centrality mean; betweenness centrality mean; and number of cliques, components, and isolates. The variability observed in the structure of the networks was not explained by gender. Some significant differences between men and women were observed for network composition and function. Women received help mainly from women with a similar profile to them. Men's networks were broader and more diverse and they had more help from outside family circles, although these outcomes were not statistically significant. Our results indicate the need to develop strategies that do not reinforce traditional gender roles, but rather encourage a greater sharing of responsibility among all parties.

Keywords: caregivers; gender differences; informal care; personal network analysis; social network analysis; social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Caregivers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires