Longitudinal changes in social networks, health and wellbeing among older Koreans

ABSTRACT ABSTRACT This study investigates the changes in social network types among older adults in South Korea, and it examines whether, and to what extent, these changes influence their health and psychological wellbeing. Data were obtained from the Korean Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The sample was restricted to respondents over 65 years of age who participated in both the 2006 and 2008 surveys (N = 3,501). The social network types for both years were derived by Latent Class Analysis. Changes in network types over time were then identified. A series of multivariate regression analyses were conducted to examine the effects of social network changes on self-rated health, depressive symptoms and life satisfaction. Restricted, Family, Friend and Diverse network types were derived in each wave of the study. Although the direction of social network changes was not always towards the Restricted type, the Restricted network was the most prevalent and stable type among older Koreans. Older adults who remained in or transitioned to restricted types of social networks were more likely to have poor self-rated health, higher levels of depressive symptoms and lower levels of life satisfaction. This study adds to the limited body of literature on longitudinal network typology, and it expands the knowledge of social network types among older adults in diverse social and cultural contexts.