About the Study

The UC Berkeley Social Networks Study, or “UCNets” is a five-year panel study funded by the National Institute on Aging, R01 AG041955-01.  People in two age groups (cohorts) – 21-30 year-olds and 50-70 year-olds — will be interviewed three times, beginning  in Winter-Spring 2015, allowing us to test how changes in social connections happen and affect health.  We draw participants from 6 Bay Area counties:  San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara. During 2015-2016 we interviewed most respondents in person, while the other participants filled out a self-administered web survey.  In the second and third waves, some of the participants who were interviewed in person will do the survey online.  Two waves have been completed: the third is scheduled for early 2018.

UCNets is the first study of its kind in the country and quite possibly, in the world. Unlike many other studies, it has a young cohort as well as an older cohort. It has four overarching aims:

  1. To accurately and fully describe the social ties of a younger group and of an older group of Bay Area residents, paying particular attention to how those relationships change as people’s lives change.
  2. To identify the causal connections among life changes, personal ties, and health. How, for example, does getting a new job or retiring affect the number or types of people a person is involved with and in which ways? How do those aspects of people’s ties in turn affect their well-being, and in turn, does that well-being translate into better ties? The panel structure of this study will allow researchers to untangle the complex patterns of cause and effect.
  3. Identify standard patterns and variations in when and how personal networks respond to life events (e.g., job transitions, marriage, deaths of intimates).
  4. To test the practicality and validity of using web-based network numeration techniques. The project incorporates an innovative switching design from face-to-face to web interviewing.