Change Ego-Network Characteristics Following Recent Health Shocks

Keunbok Lee, Stephanie Child


Facing a major health event, individuals may strategically seek help from their social network members and activate supportive alters. And the activation/mobilization of social ties will cause the change of their overall persona network characteristics. Although an increasing number of recent researches have been reported the tie activation in response to health events, it is still less known the overall change of egocentric networks following a health problem. This study examined the change of several network characteristics after the health problem (e.g., diagnosis of illness, become disabled, or hospitalization) using two waves of the UC Berkeley Social Networks Study data. Preliminary findings from a set of fixed-effect models show that the late middle age people (50-70 years) who experience health problems in between wave 1 and wave 2 are likely to list more alters in their social exchange activities. The expanding network size seems to be mainly attributed to the increasing proportion of newly added alters who were not mentioned before the health shock. Also, the new alters are likely to be a non-kin relationship. One interesting finding is that after the health problem, the stayed alters in personal networks become more overlapped with each other in terms of what they did with ego. It may result from two possible processes: first, most of them remained alters to become more multiplex ties after the ego's health issues. Or second, a few of alters become a high multiplex alter, while others stayed alters remain as an uniplex or less multiplex tie.

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