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Examining the social networks of older adults receiving informal or formal care: a systematic review

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Eileen KanerORCiD, Dr Nav Aujla, Dr Sue Lewis



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature. Purpose: To address the care needs of older adults, it is important to identify and understand the forms of care support older adults received. This systematic review aims to examine the social networks of older adults receiving informal or formal care and the factors that influenced their networks. Methods: A systematic review was conducted by searching six databases from inception to January 31, 2023. The review included primary studies focusing on older adults receiving long-term care, encompassing both informal and formal care. To assess the risk of bias in the included studies, validated appraisal tools specifically designed for different study types were utilized. Network analysis was employed to identify the grouping of study concepts, which subsequently formed the foundation for describing themes through narrative synthesis. Results: We identified 121 studies relating to the formal and informal care of older adults’ networks. A variety of social ties were examined by included studies. The most commonly examined sources of care support were family members (such as children and spouses) and friends. Several factors were consistently reported to influence the provision of informal care, including the intensity of networks, reciprocity, and geographical proximity. In terms of formal care utilization, older age and poor health status were found to be associated with increased use of healthcare services. Additionally, physical limitations and cognitive impairment were identified as factors contributing to decreased social engagement. Conclusion: This review found that older people were embedded within a diverse network. The findings of this review emphasize the importance of recognizing and incorporating the diversity of social networks in care plans and policies to enhance the effectiveness of interventions and improve the overall well-being of older adults.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ho IS-S, McGill K, Malden S, Wilson C, Pearce C, Kaner E, Vines J, Aujla N, Lewis S, Restocchi V, Marshall A, Guthrie B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Geriatrics

Year: 2023

Volume: 23

Online publication date: 31/08/2023

Acceptance date: 23/07/2023

Date deposited: 28/09/2023

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2318

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s12877-023-04190-9


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