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Published: 2021-02-02

Social networks important for ageing in rural Indonesia

NEWS For women in rural economies, ageing can be particularly precarious. Their social networks can be very important for health, but they can also make it worse. This is shown by Julia Schröders in her doctoral thesis where she has studied the role of social networks for ageing in Indonesia.

Text: Ola Nilsson

“You could say that social networks literally 'go under the skin' in both a positive and negative sense,” says Julia Schröders.

That social networks can have an impact on health may sound obvious, but it is previously partly unexplored exactly what the significance is in different situations.

In her doctoral thesis in public health, Julia Schröders focuses on the importance of social networks for the health of the elderly in Indonesia. She points to a wide range of different effects among the elderly, differences that partly differ between the sexes. She herself has traveled around the countryside around the city of Yogyakarta and collected data for a qualitative sub-study.

It was seen that loneliness among the elderly is a growing problem in Indonesia as well. Improving social networks for ageing could help reduce socio-economic inequalities in care utilization.

Another phenomenon is the emergence of a generation of "older adult children". Increasing life expectancy and an increase in chronic diseases mean that many Indonesian working-age families now have to bear the burden of two aging generations, both their parents and grandparents, instead of just one generation as before.

A surprising result was that social networks are not always conducive to health. In a sub-study, it was seen that social networks, on the contrary, gave an increased CRP, which is a marker for inflammatory processes. However, this could only be observed among older women.

The studies in the thesis were completed before covid-19 became relevant.

“The social safety nets will probably become even more important for the elderly during the pandemic, especially in countries where elderly care and social safety nets do not exist in the same way as in Europe,” says Julia Schröders.

Julia Schröders already has a degree in medical anthropology from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz in Germany and a master's degree in public health science at Umeå University.

To the doctoral thesis

About the public defence of the doctoral thesis

Julia Schröders, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health, defends her doctoral thesis Diversity, Dynamics and Deficits: The role of social networks for the health of aging populations in Indonesia. Faculty opponent Andreas Motel-Klingebiel, Linköping university. Principal supervisor Miguel San Sebastian.


Julia Schröders
Postdoctoral position, postdoctoral fellow (on leave)