Social Networks and Depressive Symptoms among Chinese Older Immigrants: Does Quantity, Quality, and Composition of Social Networks Matter?

Mengting Li, Xin Qi Dong, Dexia Kong

Publication Date: 09/14/2021

Objectives: This study aims to investigate the relationship between quantity, quality, and composition of social networks and depressive symptoms among U.S. Chinese older adults. Methods: Data were derived from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly (PINE) (N = 3,157), a study of Chinese older adults aged 60 and above in Chicago. We assessed quantitative (network size and volume of contact), qualitative (emotional closeness), and composition (proportion kin, proportion female and proportion coresident) aspects of social networks. Depressive symptoms were measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. Negative binomial and logistic regressions were conducted. Results: Older adults who had three to five network members with strong ties, a medium level of contact, and a high level of emotional closeness were less likely to experience depression than their counterparts. Quantitative and qualitative dimensions of social networks have stronger protective effects than the composition dimension. Conclusions: U.S. Chinese older immigrants with different levels of social network characteristics have different risks of depression, suggesting targeted subpopulation assessments to facilitate the delivery of more appropriate and effective treatment to those most in need. Clinical Implications: Health-care professionals and social service agencies are suggested to develop intervention programs to promote mental health through increasing strong ties and improving the quality of social networks for U.S. Chinese older immigrants.