Family Health History Communication Networks of Older Adults: Importance of Social Relationships and Disease Perceptions

Sato Ashida, Kimberly A. Kaphingst, Melody Goodman, Ellen J. Schafer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Older individuals play a critical role in disseminating family health history (FHH) information that can facilitate disease prevention among younger family members. This study evaluated the characteristics of older adults and their familial networks associated with two types of communication (have shared and intend to share new FHH information with family members) to inform public health efforts to facilitate FHH dissemination. Information on 970 social network members enumerated by 99 seniors (aged 57 years and older) at 3 senior centers in Memphis, Tennessee, through face-to-face interviews was analyzed. Participants shared FHH information with 27.5% of the network members; 54.7% of children and 24.4% of siblings. Two-level logistic regression models showed that participants had shared FHH with those to whom they provided emotional support (odds ratio [OR] = 1.836) and felt close to (OR = 1.757). Network-members were more likely to have received FHH from participants with a cancer diagnosis (OR = 2.617) and higher familiarity with (OR = 1.380) and importance of sharing FHH with family (OR = 1.474). Participants intended to share new FHH with those who provide tangible support to (OR = 1.804) and were very close to them (OR = 2.112). Members with whom participants intend to share new FHH were more likely to belong to the network of participants with higher perceived severity if family members encountered heart disease (OR = 1.329). Many first-degree relatives were not informed of FHH. Perceptions about FHH and disease risk as well as quality of social relationships may play roles in whether seniors communicate FHH with their families. Future studies may consider influencing these perceptions and relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)612-619
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • common diseases
  • communication networks
  • family health history
  • older adults
  • social relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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