Social support during retirement: a mixed method for social network analysis research

  • Francisca Ortiz

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis aims to understand how older people cope with pensions through their social support networks. More specifically, their social support networks change through their lives until retirement, ultimately influencing their experiences during retirement. A case study in Santiago, Chile, is used as it is one of the first neoliberal pension systems in the world and one of the unequal countries in terms of economic distribution. The methodological aspect of the thesis is a mixed-method approach. I studied a group of 30 older people living in Santiago, divided equally by socioeconomic levels (high-, middle- and low-class districts) and gender (older women and men). They were asked for their history and social support networks during the important events of their lives. They chose the events and the construction of their social support network at those times. The data used for the networks was retrospective and from the ego's point of view. In addition, six dimensions (material aid, intimate support, advice, physical assistance, feedback and positive interactions) of the social support networks were considered, and negative interaction, which is more anti- support, was also evaluated. The main findings suggest the relevance of researching the association between older people's lives and their social support networks from a relational and longitudinal point of view. The results are divided into three chapters: First, there is information about older people's social support networks once they retire, divided by the dimensions measured. Second, three types of trajectories (opportunities, constraints and mobilization) shaping the retirement experience associated with social support networks over time are discussed. Third, conditions are identified that make an older person feel satisfied (or not) with their retirement is considered by applying the relational variables from the social network analysis. My research suggests that the social support networks of older people act as available resources or nets to cope with difficulties. They are the daily relationships constructed and embedded through their life histories that help, protect and sustain them and keep society going at the micro-level. However, they also cause strain and constraints for older people. That was clear considering the three types of trajectories and how they were associated with having or using social support networks over time. As I shall argue, people have their support networks because of their experiences rather than survival strategies.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWendy Kay Olsen (Supervisor) & Elisa Bellotti (Supervisor)


  • ageing population
  • retirement
  • older people
  • social support network
  • social support

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