Assessing structure and characteristics of social networks among cancer survivors: impact on general health
Robust social networks are associated with improved health and quality of life for cancer survivors. Certain cancer diagnoses are associated with higher levels of stigma than breast cancer. However, little is known about the differences in social networks depending on the type of malignancy. This study aims to assess the differences in social networks and general health between breast cancer and more stigmatized cancers.
Cancer survivors were recruited to participate in a cross-sectional online survey study. Social network size and satisfaction was measured using the Cancer Survivor Social Networks Measure. General health was measured with a five-point-Likert-style item.
The average age of the sample (n = 99) was 57.6 years old (SD = 13.4) and the majority were female (67.7%). Breast cancer survivors had an average of 1.39 more members in their social network than other cancers (t(94) = 2.28, p = 0.025). There were no significant differences between groups in network satisfaction. Results of a binary logistic regression model explained 26.9% of the variance in general health (x2(5) = 18.35, p = 0.003). There was a significant association among formal support network satisfaction (β = − 1.23, p = 0.021), formal support network size (β = − 0.36, p = 0.019), malignancy type (breast vs. other) (β = 1.05, p = 0.05), and better general health.
The results suggest breast cancer survivors had more formal social supports then other malignancy types. An association among greater formal social network size and satisfaction, a diagnosis of breast instead of other cancers, and better general health was noted. Emphasizing formal support sources for all cancer survivors may improve their overall health.
KeywordsSocial network size Social network satisfaction Social support General health Stigma
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflicts of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
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