Aiello, Allison E. (2017). Invited Commentary: Evolution of Social Networks, Health, and the Role of Epidemiology. American Journal of Epidemiology, 185(11)
Almost 40 years ago, Berkman and Syme demonstrated that social networks were related to the risk of early mortality (Am J Epidemiol. 1979;109(2):186-204). Their study was highly innovative because they directly measured and quantified social networks in a large prospective population-based survey with mortality follow-up. The results of the study showed robust network gradients, whereby those with fewer networks and weaker social ties had significantly higher mortality rates. The important influence of social networks that Berkman and Syme noted many years ago is likely to heighten in the future, as demographic characteristics shift and individuals become more inclined to socialize through online platforms instead of real-world interactions. Berkman and Syme's research in 1979 continues to play a key role in shaping recent efforts to uncover the influence of social networks on health. Looking back on their findings may help epidemiologists better understand the importance of both online and offline networks for population health today.
American Journal of Epidemiology
Aiello, Allison E.