By adding the loneliness items, we can further explore complex relationships between social relationships (social networks, social support, social participation, and loneliness) and healthy ageing through cross-national comparative studies, thereby better understanding what aspects of social relationships need to be enhanced to promote healthy ageing.
The room was filled with early career and experienced researchers alike. We were also joined by practitioners, an author of social isolation book and a founder of the Japan social relationship association.
The talk started with culture and social relationships, followed by an introduction to data resources available to conduct cross-national comparative work.
I introduced the Gateway to Global Ageing, the harmonised data platform which contains two sets of data being used in the SWAN project. I also shared a range of variables that are related to social relationships and well-being from the household panel studies JSTAR, ELSA, JSHINE and UKHLS that are household panel study.
Professor Tarani Chandola, another member of the SWAN project, gave a keynote lecture, discussing measurement invariance, a key concept in comparative work. Students were provided with research examples and statistical approaches to help them assess measurement invariance. The questions came fast and furious and there was much scribbling of notes!
When we broke into small groups there was much discussion sousing mainly on themes of possible research questions, and what else could be asked in the context of social relationship and ageing. We also discussed any other potential datasets and the lifecourse of family, social support, networks and isolation in relation to ageing related health and social care use.
Many of the attendees said they found the symposium informative and inspiring, and especially appreciated the opportunity to engage in intensive discussion with other researchers from different disciplines.
We ended the UK-Japan SWAN symposium in a very Japanese way – many bowings, an indication of their appreciation and the greeting word, ‘korekaramo yoroshiku onegaishimasu’, which implies a long term collaborative relationship.