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Social network types and functional dependency in older adults in Mexico

Svetlana Vladislavovna Doubova (Dubova)1, Ricardo Pérez-Cuevas1*, Patricia Espinosa-Alarcón2 and Sergio Flores-Hernández3

Author affiliations

1 Unidad de Investigación Epidemiológica y en Servicios de Salud Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI, Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, México

2 Unidad de Investigación Educativa, Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, México

3 Coordinación de Investigación en Salud, Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, México

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:104  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-104

Published: 27 February 2010



Social networks play a key role in caring for older adults. A better understanding of the characteristics of different social networks types (TSNs) in a given community provides useful information for designing policies to care for this age group. Therefore this study has three objectives: 1) To derive the TSNs among older adults affiliated with the Mexican Institute of Social Security; 2) To describe the main characteristics of the older adults in each TSN, including the instrumental and economic support they receive and their satisfaction with the network; 3) To determine the association between functional dependency and the type of social network.


Secondary data analysis of the 2006 Survey of Autonomy and Dependency (N = 3,348). The TSNs were identified using the structural approach and cluster analysis. The association between functional dependency and the TSNs was evaluated with Poisson regression with robust variance analysis in which socio-demographic characteristics, lifestyle and medical history covariates were included.


We identified five TSNs: diverse with community participation (12.1%), diverse without community participation (44.3%); widowed (32.0%); nonfriends-restricted (7.6%); nonfamily-restricted (4.0%). Older adults belonging to widowed and restricted networks showed a higher proportion of dependency, negative self-rated health and depression. Older adults with functional dependency more likely belonged to a widowed network (adjusted prevalence ratio 1.5; 95%CI: 1.1-2.1).


The derived TSNs were similar to those described in developed countries. However, we identified the existence of a diverse network without community participation and a widowed network that have not been previously described. These TSNs and restricted networks represent a potential unmet need of social security affiliates.