The Role of Health and Health Behaviors in the Formation and Dissolution of Friendship Ties
*A James O'Malley, Harvard Medical School
Keywords: Social networks, Longitudinal, Homophily, Health, Friendship
An important question in social network analysis is whether observed association in individual characteristics between connected individuals in a network is a consequence of social influences (i.e., forces that act once the tie is formed) or whether individuals who are similar (dissimilar) are more likely to form (break) ties. The latter mechanism is known as homophily and is commonly described as “birds of a feather flock together.” In this talk we describe an approach for estimating the magnitude of the homophily effect, and examine the extent to which ties in a social network form or dissolve as a function of the similarity (or lack thereof) of individuals’ health-related traits. We also investigate whether the health traits have greater effects than the non-health “unchangeable” traits.