Head-to-Head Comparison of Social Network Assessments in Stroke Survivors

Neurohospitalist. 2021 Jan;11(1):18-24. doi: 10.1177/1941874420945889. Epub 2020 Aug 13.


Background and purpose: Social networks influence human health and disease through direct biological and indirect psychosocial mechanisms. They have particular importance in neurologic disease because of support, information, and healthy behavior adoption that circulate in networks. Investigations into social networks as determinants of disease risk and health outcomes have historically relied on summary indices of social support, such as the Lubben Social Network Scale-Revised (LSNS-R) or the Stroke Social Network Scale (SSNS). We compared these 2 survey tools to personal network (PERSNET) mapping tool, a novel social network survey that facilitates detailed mapping of social network structure, extraction of quantitative network structural parameters, and characterization of the demographic and health parameters of each network member.

Methods: In a cohort of inpatient and outpatient stroke survivors, we administered LSNS-R, SSNS, and PERSNET in a randomized order to each patient. We used logistic regression to generate correlation matrices between LSNS-R scores, SSNS scores, and PERSNET's network structure (eg, size and density) and composition metrics (eg, percent kin in network). We also examined the relationship between LSNS-R-derived risk of social isolation with PERSNET-derived network size.

Results: We analyzed survey responses for 67 participants and found a significant correlation between LSNS-R, SSNS, and PERSNET-derived indices of network structure. We found no correlation between LSNS-R, SSNS, and PERSNET-derived metrics of network composition. Personal network mapping tool structural and compositional variables were also internally correlated. Social isolation defined by LSNS-R corresponded to a network size of <5.

Conclusions: Personal network mapping tool is a valid index of social network structure, with a significant correlation to validated indices of perceived social support. Personal network mapping tool also captures a novel range of health behavioral data that have not been well characterized by previous network surveys. Therefore, PERSNET offers a comprehensive social network assessment with visualization capabilities that quantifies the social environment in a valid and unique manner.

Keywords: cerebrovascular disorders; network mapping; social determinants of health; social networks; stroke; stroke recovery.