"Cancer survivors need healthy social connections, and to the best of our knowledge this is the first published study to quantify social networks of adolescent and young adult cancer survivors compared to their peers," said I-Chan Huang, Ph.D., an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control, who led the study. "The study introduces a method we developed and validated for evaluating social networks of these cancer survivors."
The method, called the functional social network index, proved a better predictor of survivors' ability to cope with life's challenges than two traditional methods for measuring social networks, researchers reported.
Structure - Networks - Status - Membership - Church
Instead of measuring just the structure of social networks (who knows whom), marital status or membership in church or community groups, the functional social network index also measures social networks as a source of emotional and practical support from friends and relatives, as well as advice about weight management and physical activity. Adolescent and young adult cancer survivors are more likely than their non-cancer peers to be sedentary and overweight or obese.
The study tracked social networks of 102 survivors of adolescent and young adult cancer ages 18 to 30 and a similar group of 102 young adults with no cancer history. Participants were recruited from a commercial national internet survey panel; each of the participants reported detailed social connection information with up to 25 friends and relatives. The survivors were between 15 and 30 years old when their cancer was diagnosed. All were at least five years from completion of therapy.
Group - St - Jude - Index - Group
Compared to those in the non-cancer group, the St. Jude index showed that as a group, cancer survivors had more available resources for emotional and practical support as well as advice on weight and physical activity. "This makes sense," Huang said. "Because of their cancer, survivors often have strong networks...
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