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Hypothesis 1: Background characteristics being gay or lesbian, female, younger age, non-Hispanic White, having higher income and education, being employed and having fewer chronic conditions , family relations having a partner or spouse and child , identity disclosure to best friends and neighbors , participation in religious activities, and service utilization will be positively associated with greater social network size.

Hypothesis 2: Background characteristics being gay or lesbian, female, younger age, non-Hispanic White, having higher income and education, being employed and having fewer chronic conditions , family relations having a partner or spouse and child , identity disclosure to best friends and neighbors , participation in religious activities, and service utilization will be positively associated with greater social network diversity. The study was conducted through a collaboration with 11 community agencies from different regions of the United States, including some agencies that were LGBT specific and some that were serving older adults in general.

Over a 6-month period from June to November , the agencies utilized their contact lists of older adults, aged 50 and above, to distribute invitation letters and paper questionnaires. The lists included people who have been in contact with the agencies and for whom contact information was available.


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For agencies with electronic mailing lists, a similar Internet-based survey was used. In addition, all follow-up reminders included an Internet-based survey option. Overall, 2, paper and Internet-based questionnaires were submitted and satisfied eligibility criteria LGBT adults 50 years of age and older. The questionnaire collected information on demographic characteristics, quality of life, physical and mental health, issues of receiving and providing care, and other risk and protective factors and life events.

Detailed information regarding the data collection procedures is described elsewhere Fredriksen-Goldsen et al.

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The study asked about social acquaintances inside and outside the LGBT communities, including relationships with friends, colleagues, family members, and neighbors as reported by the respondent. The social network measurement component of the questionnaire was limited in scope due to the potential for overall respondent burden. Note that we decided not to ask separate questions for every possible combination of sexual and gender identity because of substantial additional cognitive complexity that the expanded data collection instrument would have created.

We develop a modified summation index to estimate the network size of LGBT individuals. The modified summation index uses groups defined by sexual identity, gender identity, and age because these groups reflect the basic composition of the population of interest better than typical relational categories. It has been shown that the summation method yields a valid and reliable proxy for the actual network size McCarty et al.

In the context of this article, for the purposes of concise exposition, we will refer to transgender adults as T, and to nontransgender lesbian, nontransgender gay men, and nontransgender bisexual groups as simply L, G, and B, respectively.

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We measure network diversity by counting the number of sexual identity and gender identity groups L, G, B, or T for which respondents reported nonzero networks from 0 to 5. Sexual identity was measured by asking participants to self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual or straight, and other. Female participants who identified themselves as gay were recoded as lesbian.

Regarding their health conditions, participants were asked whether they had ever been told by a doctor that they had the following: We use the number of chronic conditions reported from 0 to 10 as an indicator of chronic health problems. For religious activity, we used three categories: The service utilization indicator 0 or 1 measures whether the respondent was a current user of programs or services for LGBT older adults. We begin with a descriptive analysis of the social networks size and diversity. We then apply a series of multiple regression analyses to examine correlates of log-network size and network diversity among LGBT older adults.

These cases were excluded from all analyses reported in this article. In addition, observations had missing values on covariates. Finally, 18 cases with zero social network sizes were removed from multiple regression analyses as the mechanisms related to the absence of network ties might be qualitatively different from mechanisms related to changes in magnitude of the social network ties.

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This provided us with a sample size of 1, for the regression analyses. Correlations among all variables were examined to avoid multicollinearity issues. Thus, we used both of these measures in regression. To satisfy the assumptions of homoscedasticity and normality of residuals Weisberg, , we employed the logarithm transformation of the social network size variable. For the diversity variable, which is a count from 0 to 5, we employed two approaches: The ordinal logistic regression is more appropriate for ordered discrete outcomes than the linear regression that assumes linearity.

However, in both analyses, the identified significant predictors and the directions of associations were the same. Because our focus is on identifying significant associations, we present results from the linear multiple regression analyses mentioned subsequently. Network information was available for 1, individuals, of whom there were lesbian nontransgender women, gay nontransgender men, 94 bisexual nontransgender men and women, and transgender men and women. The mean total network size was estimated to be Some respondents explained that high numbers of individuals in their acquaintance networks were due to their occupations e.

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Table 1 provides the descriptive statistics for the total network size by sexual and gender identity. Figure 2 provides the corresponding histograms of social network size, where the reported numbers of ties that were larger than the 95th percentile network size of or larger are not shown. The distributions of network size look fairly similar across groups. The mean network diversity was estimated to be 3. Figure 2 also summarizes network diversity by sexual and gender identity categories of the respondent.

For both gay male and lesbian older adults, the modal diversity was 3, indicating that more of these individuals reported social ties to three different sexual identity and gender identity groups among L, G, B, or T than to any other number of groups. Transgender and bisexual individuals had greater diversity than gay and lesbian individuals, and their modal network diversity values were 5 and 4, respectively.

Table 2 provides the number of respondents egos who reported social ties to individuals alters in the row categories L, G, B, T, or heterosexual. For example, of lesbian respondents, reported that they have social ties to gay male individuals. The transgender participants showed the most even distribution of social ties across the four sexual and gender identity groups, while lesbian and gay male older adults showed the most affinity toward groups of similar sexual and gender identity.

Note that Table 2 only provides a two-dimensional view on the reported social ties. Examination of the overall multivariate distribution of social ties across gender and sexual identity categories is beyond the scope of this article Morris, We performed multiple regression analyses for two outcome variables: Subsequently, we report results for cases with complete covariate information: The identified significant predictors and the directions of association were the same in the multiple imputation analysis as those reported here.

First, we used regression analyses to examine the relationship of social network size with sexual and gender identity, age-group, and gender. There were individuals between 50 and 64 years of age, —between 65 and 79, and —80 or older. We then used multiple regression analyses to examine associations between log-network size and diversity index of social networks and background characteristics, family relations, identity disclosure, and community involvement. We considered including the survey mode—article or Internet—as an additional covariate but did not find significant mode effects net of other covariates.

Of family relations, both having a partner or spouse and having a child had significant positive influence on social network size. Of identity disclosure factors, controlling for other covariates, being out to neighbor was positively associated with social network size, whereas being out to best friends was not. Religious activity and service utilization were also positively associated with social network size. We note that, because of logarithm transformation, estimates should be interpreted on the multiplicative scale for network size. For example, controlling for other covariates, those being out to neighbor have networks that are 1.

Log transformation was applied to social network size. Table 4 presents multiple regression results for network diversity as the outcome. Of background characteristics, younger age 50—65 and 65—80 vs. Of family relations, having a child was positively associated with network diversity but having a partner or spouse was not. Both identity disclosure measures, being out to friends and neighbor, were significantly associated with an increase in network diversity.

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In addition, community involvement including religious activities and service utilization were associated with elevated diversity in social networks. To investigate the association of individual characteristics with diversity net of network size , we obtained results from the multiple regression analyses controlling for the social network size.


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We use these results conditional on network size for the subsequent interpretation. The following characteristics were found to be significantly associated with larger network diversity, net of network size, and controlling for other covariates: Although there is increasing attention to health disparities among LGBT people Institute of Medicine, and emerging evidence suggests that the size of social network is associated with better health among LGBT older adults Fredriksen-Goldsen et al.

Based on a large cross-sectional survey, we found that when controlling for covariates, network size was positively associated with being female, transgender, employed, having higher income, having a partner and having a child, identity disclosure to neighbor; and participation in religious activities and in programs or services for LGBT older adults. When controlling for social network size, we also found that network diversity was positively associated with younger age, being female and transgender, identity disclosure to a friend, and participation in religious activity and service use.

A number of social gerontologists studied health benefits and correlates of support networks, but there has been considerably less research on more general social relations even though they may also play important roles in determining health outcomes, especially at old age Granovetter, ; Gray, ; Wrzus et al.

This article fills the gap by studying network size and network diversity of egocentric networks—including friends, acquaintance, and support networks—of LGBT older adults. Many of our findings of the correlates of social network size and diversity among LGBT older adults are similar to those found among older adults in the general population.

Thus, we find that women have larger social networks than men, similar to the general population Cicirelli, ; Cornwell et al. In addition, we find that women have more diverse networks, which has not been documented in other studies of LGBT older adults. Regarding gender identity, we find that transgender older adults have significantly larger and more diverse networks than nontransgender LGB older adults. This could be partly due to the fact that transgender communities have in part been developed through the use of electronic communications Hill, ; Shapiro, Moreover, gender and sexual identities are not mutually exclusive.

Transgender older adults in this study identify themselves as lesbian, gay male, bisexual, and also heterosexual; and they may have more opportunities to build social network in diverse communities than nontransgender LGB older adults.

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In addition, a previous study suggests that transgender older adults are more likely to have a child and less likely to live alone than nontransgender LGB older adults Fredriksen-Goldsen, Cook-Daniels et al. Still, studies find that transgender adults have limited social support Fredriksen-Goldsen et al. Further research is needed to better understand social networks of transgender older adults.