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Social networks and well-being: A multi-method study


PI: Prof. Dr. Lea Ellwardt
Staff members: Amelie Reiner, Paula Steinhoff
Student assistants: Anna Leuwer, Maya Wermeyer

Funding institution: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Duration: 2022-2025 (36 months)


Universitätsstaße 24 | D-50931 Köln | 0221 470 89165

Research question/objective

Relevance and research gap: People who have a large number of social contacts, on average, enjoy better mental and physical well-being than socially isolated people. In contrast, epidemiologists estimate social isolation to be as harmful to health as smoking. Social isolation and loneliness are most widespread among older adults. Previous research approaches have predominantly focused on individuals, and less on the social relationships within an entire group or network.

Aim and innovation: This project investigates how social networks are related to well-being in middle and older age. This is done through a sociometric approach: we apply methods of network analysis in the fields of social gerontology and epidemiology. The project, which focuses on the structure of an entire social network, addresses both qualitative and quantitative aspects of social relationships between the people in a social group.

Methodology and contribution: We conduct a case study using mixed methods, by collecting and analyzing data from interviews and questionnaires in several recreational clubs. The results may provide a more fine-grained description of social networks than conventional research designs. Based on this, we hope to draw meaningful conclusions about the well-being of socially active people in middle and older age.