The Influence of Social Network Characteristics on Health Service Utilization in Latino Immigrants

Sara S Masoud, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background: Immigrant populations are considered vulnerable and at high-risk for poorer health outcomes. They are also less likely than native-born populations to utilize health care services and to have a regular source of health care. The ways in which immigrants utilize health services have been repeatedly associated with social network structures. Social networks serve an important role in the dissemination of information and support in immigrant populations. The characteristics of these networks can impact the ways in which immigrants utilize health care services. Few recent studies have empirically examined the influence of social networks on health service utilization in immigrant populations. Even fewer have specifically assessed the ways in which two important network characteristics influence health service utilization in immigrant populations: network diversity and network magnitude. Objectives: The present cross-sectional study examines the impact of personal network size and diversity on frequency of utilization of health care services among recent Latino immigrants. This study also seeks to identify which of these two social network characteristics is most influential in determining utilization rates in Latino immigrants. Methods: Data came from interviews of Latino immigrants 18 and older who have lived in the United States for 10 years or less (n=177). A Poisson regression model was utilized to evaluate the predictive capacity of network diversity and network magnitude in health service utilization scores. Subsequent post-hoc analyses tested for violations of model assumptions and further explored the results from initial analyses. Results: Network diversity was not found to be associated with significant predictive value within the proposed framework; network magnitude was found to have significant predictive capacity in regards to health service utilization in Latino immigrants. Results reflect that larger social networks are associated with higher frequencies of health service utilization. Conclusion: Social network magnitude may prove to be useful in improving utilization rates of health services in Latino immigrant populations. The current study does not investigate the varying levels of influence that different relationship categories may have on one’s frequency of utilization. Further examination of social network diversity and magnitude should involve a measure of strength of relationships beyond frequency of interaction.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Masoud, Sara S, "The Influence of Social Network Characteristics on Health Service Utilization in Latino Immigrants" (2017). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10274041.