A Systematic Review of Research on Social Networks of Older Adults

Liat Ayalon, Inbar Levkovich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: There has been a substantial interest in life course/life span changes in older adults’ social networks and in the relationship between social networks and health and wellbeing. The study embarked on a systematic review to examine the existing knowledgebase on social network in the field of gerontology. Our focus was on studies in which both ego (respondents) and his or her alters (network members) are queried about their social ties. Research Design and Methods: We searched for studies published in English before September, 2017, relied on quantitative methods to obtain data from both ego (60 years of age and older) and alters and provided a quantitative account of the social network properties. We searched the following data sets: APA Psychnet, Pubmed, Sociological abstracts, and Ageline. This was followed by a snowball search of relevant articles using Google Scholar. Titles and abstracts were reviewed and selected articles were extracted independently by two reviewers. Results: A total of 5,519 records were retrieved. Of these, 3,994 records remained after the removal of duplicates. Ten records reporting on five original samples were kept for the systematic review. One study described a social network of community dwelling older adults and the remaining studies described social networks of institutional older adults. Discussion and Implications: The present study points to a lacuna in current understanding of social networks in the field of gerontology. It provides a useful review and possible tools for the design of future studies to address current shortcomings in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E164-E176
JournalThe Gerontologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 17 May 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved.


The study was funded by the Israel Science Foundation 537/16.

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation537/16


    • Egocentric
    • Social network
    • Sociocentric
    • Systematic review


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