Social Network Typology and Cognitive Status Among African Americans: Findings From the Health and Retirement Study

TitleSocial Network Typology and Cognitive Status Among African Americans: Findings From the Health and Retirement Study
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsLincoln, KD, Nguyen, AW
Book TitleAnnual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Volume 41, 2021: Black Older Adults in the Era of Black Lives Matter
Pagination63 – 84
PublisherSpringer Publishing Company
ISSN Number978-082616632-6, 978-082616631-9
KeywordsAfrican Americans, cognitive function, cognitive impairment, Network diversity, Social networks, Social Support

Social network diversity has been linked to cognitive status in older adults. While social network diversity is often operationalized by the proportion of social roles represented within one’s network, the additive effect of social roles is often unrecognized. Moreover, very few studies examine social relationships and cognitive status among African American older adults-a population with a high risk of cognitive impairment. The current study examined the relationship between social network diversity and cognitive status in a nationally representative sample of middle-aged and older African Americans. Data from the Health and Retirement Study (N = 2, 308) and latent class analysis were used to identify a social network typology using children, extended family members, and friends as social network indicators. Multinomial logistic regression was used to determine the association between social network types and cognitive status. Three social network types were identified-friend-focused, diverse, and restricted network types. African Americans with higher cognitive status were more likely to be assigned to the friend-focused social network type rather than the diverse or restricted network types. Neither the diverse nor restricted social network types were associated with cognitive status. A social network typology accounted for heterogeneity within the social networks of African American middle-aged and older adults and identified a unique social network type that appears to be protective for their cognitive health. Findings have implications for the measurement and operationalization of social networks and cognitive status and the role of social networks in maintaining cognitive functioning in African Americans.

Citation KeyLincoln202163