This study examined the effects of social network characteristics on physical health among people with serious mental illness using social transactions that are reciprocal, and the combination of objective and subjective health measures. The sample consisted of a probability sample of 231 adults with serious mental illness who resided in permanent supportive housing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Path analyses were conducted to examine the relationships between social network characteristics and two aspects of medical comorbidity, objective health and subjective health. Bivariate statistics showed that individuals with medical comorbidity were more likely to have contact with their network members and had a higher level of reciprocal positive tangible support when compared to those who did not have medical comorbidity. The results of the path analyses revealed that none of the social network characteristics were associated with better physical health. The lack of a significant relationship between social networks and better physical health is contrary to prior research findings. However, this is the first study to include both types of social transactions simultaneously as predictors of better physical health for individuals with serious mental illness. A longitudinal study would provide more insight into the temporal relationship of social networks and physical health conditions of people with serious mental illness. Furthermore, the transactional nature of social relationships, particularly for those with mental health issues, requires greater exploration.
Psychiatric Quarterly – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 21, 2014
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