Journal Article

Close social networks among older adults: the online and offline perspectives

Population Research and Policy Review, 1–25 (2021)
Open Access
Reproducible

Abstract

Qualitative studies have found that the use of Information and Communication Technologies is related to an enhanced quality of life for older adults, as these technologies might act as a medium to access social capital regardless of geographical distance. In order to quantitatively study the association between older people’s characteristics and the likelihood of having a network of close friends offline and online, we use data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe and data from Facebook. Using a novel approach to analyze aggregated and anonymous Facebook data within a regression framework, we show that the associations between having close friends and age, sex and being a parent are the same offline and online. Migrants who use internet are less likely to have close friends offline, but migrants who are Facebook users are more likely to have close friends online, suggesting that digital relationships may compensate for the potential lack of offline close friendships among older migrants.

Keywords: European Union, computational social science, old age, social network
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.