A social network is a set of people who are connected to each other through meaningful social relationships, such as relationships with family members, friends, and neighbors. Across the life course, from childhood through old age, people often develop a set of important social ties that accompany them throughout their lives. These social network ties provide emotional closeness, support during periods of stress, and day-to-day companionship, although they can also be a source of misunderstandings and disappointments.

Social networks can be described in terms of structural characteristics (such as size, composition, geographic dispersion, and degree of interconnectedness between network members) and functional characteristics (such as the extent to which the network provides specific types of social support). These characteristics, in turn, influence health and well-being. Larger ...

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