MHS Professor Tara McKay receives 3 year grant from National Institute of Aging to study LGBT social networks and health
In collaboration with UC Berkeley (PI: Claude Fischer), Dr. McKay has received $189K over 3 years from National Institute of Aging to expand an existing study social networks and health among older (50-70 yr) adults in the Bay Area. The expansion will include a sample of 300 lesbians and gay men surveyed 3 times over 3 years about their social network composition, availability of support, health, and life events.
The study is particularly timely given recent federal changes in access to same-sex marriage, changes in family and household composition for aging adults in the US, and expanded access to health insurance under the ACA.
This study is also significant because it will be the first to collect longitudinal data on social network composition, health and life events among a broad sample of older LGB adults. Previous studies that take a similar social network approach primarily focus on gay men, are skewed heavily White, and often target HIV positive individuals.
Understanding social network processes as they relate to health among this population will allow policymakers and practitioners, as well as individuals’ family and friends, to better anticipate ways to avoid unmet needs resulting from disconnectedness and insufficient ties, especially at critical life events, and to design better interventions. Social and health policies could incorporate an understanding of the importance of social relations and which social relations in particular affect health among this marginalized population.