Associations Between Social Networks and Life Satisfaction Among Older Japanese: Does Birth Cohort Make a Difference?

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Japanese older people experienced drastic changes in family structure and values after World War II at different life stages by birth cohorts. We examined how linkages between different types of social ties and life satisfaction (LS) vary across cohorts, in conjunction with age and survey year differences. Data from face-to-face interviews conducted in 1987, 1999, and 2012 with a nationally representative sample of older Japanese (N = 4,917) were analyzed. The participants were members of 4 birth cohorts (C1: 1901–1912, C2: 1913–1924, C3: 1925–1936, C4: 1937–1949), categorized into 6 groups based on cohort and age at time of measurement (young-old [YO]: 63–74; old-old [OO]: 75–86): C1OO, C2YO, C2OO, C3YO, C3OO, and C4YO. Effects of social networks on LS among the 6 groups were compared simultaneously and separately by gender using the Amos software. There were significant cohort variations in the linkages between family network and LS. The positive association between being married and LS was stronger for later cohorts (C3, C4) among men, whereas that of co-residence with a child and LS was stronger for the earlier cohorts (C1, C2) among women. Moreover, the positive association between meeting with nonfamily members and LS increased from 1987 to 2012 among women, indicating a period effect over a cohort effect. The effects of being married and participation in community groups on LS also changed with age. Our results suggest that linkages between social relations and LS should be interpreted within the context of individual and social changes over time.

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