A Friend in Need? Exploring the Influence of Life-Threatening Disease and Disability Onset on Close Friendships Among Older Adults

Kenzie Latham-Mintus , Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

This research examines whether onset of life-threatening disease (i.e., cancer, lung disease, heart disease, or stroke) or Activities of Daily Living (ADL) disability influences the reported number of close friends and frequency of contact. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) (2006-2012), this research capitalizes on panel data to assess changes in friendship over a four-year period. Lagged dependent variable (LDV) and change score (CS) approaches were used to evaluate changes to friendship characteristics. Results from CS model suggests that onset of life-threatening disease was associated with reporting more friends. Both the LDV and CS models provide evidence that the onset of cancer, in particular, was associated with more friends four years later. This research provides evidence of the network activation hypothesis following onset of life-threatening disease.

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 Presented in Session 13. Resiliency and Successful Aging