Physical Indicators of the Strength of Social Networks

In a recent study published by Science Daily, scientists found correlation between anxiety and insecurity in relation to one’s social network and relative bodily cortisol levels.

40 Dominican children were interviewed for the study.

“Each child was asked a series of questions about their friends to measure their perceived density and closeness of their social networks. Three samples of saliva were collected before, during and after the interview and cortisol and alpha-amylase levels were measured.”

Researchers found that children that were insecure about the size and strength of their social networks were more likely to produce increased levels of cortisol, a direct physical measure of anxiety.

The findings can be related back to the perceived “value” of a given social network, where the prevalence of a substantial number of strong ties has tangible physical and emotional effects. The study suggests that networks consisting of weak ties and unstable triads are unfavorable for general health purposes.

This opens the door to new paths for research. Which is more important for mental stability – the existence of strong ties? Or is it more quantity based? How do unstable triads play a role? What network phenomenon has the most significant psychological impact? On a similar note, this study was performed on children ages 5 to 12 in the Dominican. How would results differ on adults? Would American children produce comparable results?

The link between graph theory and social sciences is a fascinating realm; the possibility for future research is endless.

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