NetHealth: Social network inequalities and health impacts – Socioeconomic, geographic, and migration-related dimensions

NetHealth is a project about social network inequalities between socioeconomic, geographic, and migration-status groups, and the consequences of these inequalities for individual and population health. It is funded by Fondazione Cariplo (Inequalities Research 2023 call).

Project description

Networks of social relationships are often seen as the glue that keeps societies together and as a source of social cohesion, support, trust, and civic participation. Yet, social networks can also form powerful structures of inequality, reflecting and amplifying disparities of opportunities and outcomes along other dimensions, such as socioeconomic status. Inequalities in social networks matter for two reasons: because social relationships are a valued good in themselves for individuals in human societies; and because they are means to achieving other valued ends, such as jobs, housing, or health care.

NetHealth asks:

  1. How and to what extent different characteristics of local and global social networks vary systematically between social groups, defined on the basis of socioeconomic status, geography of residential location, and migration status.
  2. Whether and to what degree group differences in social networks explain inequalities in health-related beliefs, behaviors, and outcomes between socioeconomic, geographic, and migration-status groups.

In a sequential mixed-methods design, the project will collect quantitative and qualitative data in population groups with different socioeconomic status, living in areas with different degrees of urbanization, and including first-generation migrants, migrant descendants (second generations), and the non-migrant ethnic majority. Research steps include:

  1. A population-representative survey on health beliefs, behaviors, and outcomes, and (offline and online) social networks.
  2. In-depth interviews to investigate mechanisms of association between the three inequality dimensions of interest (socioeconomic, geographic, migration-related), social network characteristics, and health.
  3. Statistical modeling of network data and agent-based modeling to simulate global networks and study processes of influence and diffusion of health beliefs and behaviors.

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