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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research

Social network and health behaviours inequalities: theory and results of the SILNE study

13 October 2015

Speaker: Professor Vincent Lorant, Institute of Health and Society,  Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium

'Social network and health behaviour inequalities: theory and results of the SILNE-study'

Although health behaviours, such as smoking, accounts for a large proportion of socio-economic health inequalities, it is unclear how these inequalities emerge at a young age.

Hitherto, the role of friendship ties has received insufficient attention. This talk presented the theory of network-induced inequality by Dimaggio (2011) and applied it to adolescent’ health: adolescents in lower socio-economic groups are more exposed to smoking by their peers (peer-effect) than those in higher socio-economic groups and, at the same time, are more likely to befriend adolescents from similar social background (social homophily).

We hypothesized that the combination of peer-effect and social homophily may contribute to socio-economic inequalities in smoking at school. In 2013, a social network survey (SILNE) was carried out in six medium size European cities (Namur, Tampere, Hanover, Latina, Amersfoort, and Coimbra) where a total of 50 schools were selected from the local registers.

All adolescents in grades corresponding to the age group of 14 to 16 were invited to participate and 11,015 adolescents were recruited (participation rate = 79.4%). A composite index of socio-economic status (SES) was computed.

We analysed regular smoking according to the percentage of smokers among an individual’s close and distant friends, and according to social homophily.