Social Network, Social Support, and Risk of Incident Stroke
Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study
Background and Purpose—Having a small social network and lack of social support have been associated with incident coronary heart disease; however, epidemiological evidence for incident stroke is limited. We assessed the longitudinal association of a small social network and lack of social support with risk of incident stroke and evaluated whether the association was partly mediated by vital exhaustion and inflammation.
Methods—The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study measured social network and social support in 13 686 men and women (mean, 57 years; 56% women; 24% black; 76% white) without a history of stroke. Social network was assessed by the 10-item Lubben Social Network Scale and social support by a 16-item Interpersonal Support Evaluation List-Short Form.
Results—During a median follow-up of 18.6 years, 905 incident strokes occurred. Relative to participants with a large social network, those with a small social network had a higher risk of stroke (hazard ratio [95% confidence interval], 1.44 [1.02–2.04]) after adjustment for demographics, socioeconomic variables, marital status, behavioral risk factors, and major stroke risk factors. Vital exhaustion, but not inflammation, partly mediated the association between a small social network and incident stroke. Social support was unrelated to incident stroke.
Conclusions—In this sample of US community-dwelling men and women, having a small social network was associated with excess risk of incident stroke. As with other cardiovascular conditions, having a small social network may be associated with a modestly increased risk of incident stroke.
- Received April 15, 2014.
- Revision received June 27, 2014.
- Accepted July 16, 2014.
- © 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.