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Journal Of Epidemiology & Community Health: Family Matters More For Men's Well-Being

Research from the University College London published in August 2012 reveals that there is a direct connection between the size of a person's social network and their psychological wellbeing. For men more than women, there is a benefit from the extended social networks that come from having a partner.

Grandfather doing craft activity with grandson

 

 
For men, a larger family network has a positive effect on his wellbeing...
 
It is relatively common knowledge that men and women need a solid social network as part of their ability of to maintain health and wellbeing.  Social inclusion is one of the listed Social Determinants of Health.

This research examined a cohort of British men and women born in 1958 and tracked the relationship between the size of their social networks and their psychological wellbeing.  It reveals that there is more to the relationship than just the size of the social network.

Having a smaller social network is a predictor of poorer psychological wellbeing for both males and females at age 45, regardless of other factors such as educational levels, material status and earlier  psychological health.  For men, however, the finding was that there was a greater benefit from extended kinship on his wellbeing - that is, the impact of not only his own social networks but that of his partners and his family as social connections was very important.  Thus, for men, having a larger family network has a positive effect on his wellbeing.

Friends From Work?


The study also showed that for both men and women, being employed was not related to the size of their social networks but for women, education had a positive effect on social connections.

For men, this means that relying on the formation of friendships through the workplace may not be enough.  Men will need to actively build outside social networks in order to maintain their health and wellbeing rather than relying on workplace friendships alone, which might explain some of the isolation that can occur during unemployment and retirement.

Family Ties


The researchers reported a long-term benefit from extended family networks (ie, family members who did not live with the participants) but this trend was evident on men only, not women.

It shows that men in particular benefit from the social connections that come from their own and their partner's family networks.  This trend was not evident in women.

Implications For Service Providers


For services trying to improve male health, they can benefit from this understanding in several ways:

  • As family networks are identified as a predictor of positive psychological wellbeing in men, then efforts can be made to identify men who lack those extended family networks either if, for example, they are single, or otherwise isolated.  Finding out about the quality of family relationships even beyond that of the immediate partner becomes important in managing stress and understanding the depth of a man's social network.
  • There is a direct effect on men's wellbeing by being partnered and this comes about partly from the extended social network that the partner brings to the relationship.  The combination of family networks and the partner's social networks can bring better health outcomes for men.

Resources Available

 

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