Educational Differences in Health Discussion Mobilization Through Social Networks

Won-tak Joo , University of Wisconsin-Madison

Using the nationally-representative data from US older adults, I examine how older adults mobilize health discussion through social networks in reaction to the onset of diseases. The results show heterogeneous patterns across levels of education. When encountering new diseases between 2005 and 2010, older adults with lower education were more likely to abandon networks with whom they expect to rarely discuss health issues and recruit new members that possibly provide richer health discussion than the existing ones. People with higher education, on the other hand, showed less changes in networks and focused on promoting health discussion with the maintained networks. When considering the total amount of health discussion, the increase was observed only for those with a bachelor or higher degree. Those patterns – high fluctuation in social networks but little increase in health discussion for low-educated older adults – may partly explain health disparities by education in later life.

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 Presented in Session 249. Social and Economic Determinants of Health and Mortality