Age-related Changes in Associations of Social Network Ties with Mortality Risk

Published in: Psychology and Aging, v. 14, no. 4, 1999, p. 564-571

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1999

by Joan S. Tucker, Joseph E. Schwartz, Kathleen M. Clark, Howard S. Friedman

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Age-related changes in the associations of social network ties with mortality risk were investigated using data from the Terman Life-Cycle Study (L. M. Terman, 1925; L. M. Terman & M. H. Oden, 1947, 1959). Marital status, number of living children, number of living siblings. and number of group memberships in 1940, 1950, 1960, and 1977 were reported across middle adulthood by 697 men and 544 women, with mortality follow-up as of 1991. Initial analyses confirmed previous work indicating that marital history (men only), number of children (both genders), and organizational memberships (both genders) are predictive of mortality risk. Further analyses compared the associations between these social ties and mortality prior to age 70 and at age 70 and older. Results indicated that for men, experiencing marital dissolution and subsequently remarrying is a stronger predictor of mortality risk prior to age 70 (p = .05), whereas for women, number of children (p < .05) is a stronger predictor of mortality risk after age 70. Implications of these age-related changes in social ties and mortality risk are discussed.

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