Social Networks & Health

Over the past 10 years, the McCowan Lab has been building an interdisciplinary team to study how adverse health outcomes (e.g., immune suppression, communicable diseases, system stability) are the consequence of specific hierarchical elements within and the result of the structure of social networks. Our group is interested in the health profiles and pathways that result from social life by considering health as a complex system. Such an approach requires state-of-the-art data-driven system science approaches that reveal emergent patterns in health through the interaction of social and biological systems. We focus on understanding the underlying multi-faceted mechanisms required to develop efficacious interventions that drive positive and negative health outcomes. Using nonhuman primates as a translational model, we are interested in how the spatial and mathematical relations of networks relate to the content and quality of relationships at the individual, family and community levels and how variation in these relationships at different levels influences health and health-related outcomes over the lifespan. We have found that the roles that individuals play in their network can have a critical effect on health at both the individual and group levels and in turn that the structure of the overall network can have important impact on individual health.