Social contexts, social relationships, and health
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The study of social relationships and health has been one of the main issues of sociology. A growing number of literatures have demonstrated the association between social relationships and health. The findings generally showed that people who were socially integrated, received social support, and participated in non-working social organizations tended to be physically and psychologically healthier than those who were not; however, less is known about the process and structure of social relationships in the sociological investigation of health. Studies were often limited in that they did not thoroughly investigate the determinants of social relationships in relation to health. In the present study, I suggest that social contexts will enlarge our understanding of the association between social relationships and health. I employ the term social contexts to refer to distinctive dimensions of social structures and institutions in which individuals are embedded. If social contexts are probable determinants of social relationships, social contexts appear to have an effect on health status as well as social relationships. Despite this proposition, few studies have examined the associations among social contexts, social relationships, and health in an integrated analytical framework. The main objective of this project is, thus, to examine the association among the distinctive layers of social contexts--family, workplace, and neighborhoods--, social relationships and health. Using the first and second wave of the Americans’ Changing Lives panel data, I test four main research questions. First, are social contexts associated with health outcomes? Second, are social contexts predictive of a variety of social relationships? Third, do social relationships account for the association between social contexts and health outcomes? Finally, do social contexts moderate the association between social relationships and health outcomes? Neighborhood contexts are associated with depression and self-rated health of the first wave net of controls. Neighborhood contexts are predictive of a variety of social relationships. Social relationships account for the associations between the percentage of households receiving public assistance, foreign-born residents, and female-headed households, and depression of the first wave. Some of the associations between social relationships and health outcomes are moderated by neighborhood contexts, and the moderating effects vary by the types of social relationships. Workplace contexts are generally associated with depression, but not largely associated with self-rated health. Workplace contexts are predictive of a variety of social relationships. Social relationships only moderately account for the effects of job decision latitude, physical demands, and psychological demands on depression of the second wave, and psychological demands on self-rated health of the first wave. The associations between social relationships and health outcomes are moderated by workplace contexts in some cases, and the moderating effects vary by the types of social relationships. Family contexts are generally associated with depression and self-rated health in both cross-sectional and longitudinal settings. Family contexts are predictive of a variety of social relationships. Social relationships mediate some of the associations between family context variables and health; the effect of family context variables on self-rated health of the second wave are explained by social relationships in models of having children, parental chronic stress, mother support, child support, and spouse support. Some of the associations between social relationships and health status are moderated by family contexts, and the moderating effects vary by the types of social relationships.