Personal networks and social versus private activity after retirement

Beata Łopaciuk-Gonczaryk, Małgorzata Kalbarczyk


This study verifies the relevance of participation in family and friends/acquaintances social networks for the type of activities undertaken after retirement. The activities considered are: 1) formal social engagement in voluntary and charity work, and political or community related organizations; 2) informal help given outside household; 3) solitary leisure or self-development activities and 4) sociable leisure or self-development activities. Additionally, we check if those activities, together with participation in social networks, are substitutes or complements and what is their dynamics around the moment of retiring. We utilize data obtained from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. We use data from 4th and 6th wave of this study (conducted, respectively, in 2011 and 2015), as they include an extended part on egocentric networks of respondents. After retirement, we observe an increase in the size of social network (number of people with whom a respondent discusses important things, mostly among family members), followed by an increase in volunteering, giving informal help, attending sport or social club, playing cards or chests, reading books or magazines, and doing word or number games. The cluster analysis distinguishes between two groups of respondents: more active and more participating in social networks and less-active and less-participating, not differentiating between the types of activities performed and social relations fostered. The GSEM modelling results show that both the family network’s size before retirement and its positive change through retirement go hand in hand with engaging in giving informal help after retirement. Furthermore, the increase in the number of friends and acquaintances through retirement increases the probability of taking up both informal and formal socially-oriented activities. As it turns out, an individual’s social network size is positively correlated with taking-up socially-beneficial activities after retirement but is not significant for privately-oriented activities. Additionally, we find no evidence that due to time constraints or individual preferences, socially- and privately-oriented activities are substitutes, or that informal social relations crowd out formal participation in civic organizations.

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