Distinguished Geriatric Social Work Expert speaks about Social Health
April 12, 2012
By Vincent Lim:
James Lubben, an internationally acclaimed researcher in geriatric social work, discussed the importance of social ties for the health and well-being of older adults on March 27 at an event sponsored by the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging at the USC School of Social Work and the USC Davis School of Gerontology.
A fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, Lubben has actively promoted the development of both gerontology and social work throughout his long academic career. He is the Louise McMahon Ahearn Chair of Social Work at Boston College and the national director of the Hartford Doctoral Fellows Program in Geriatric Social Work—the largest private source of fellowships for social work doctoral students in the United States.
Lubben is well-known for developing his Lubben Social Network Scale (LSNS), a short questionnaire designed to measure social isolation in older adults by measuring perceived social support that elders receive from family and friends.
"In the United States, we have a real bias for physical health and only recently have we started to talk about parity for mental health," said Lubben, who has conducted many cross-national studies in countries such as China. "Social health is oftentimes not even on the horizon, and I think we have evidence that it is central to the health of older adults."
The LSNS has been translated into many languages and utilized in studies in North America, Europe, Australia as well as Asia. Lubben co-authored a publication that focused on Chinese older adult populations with Iris Chi, holder of the Chinese American Golden Age Association/Frances Wu Chair for the Chinese Elderly at the USC School of Social Work.
He said the original idea for his scale came from his work as a doctoral student more than 25 years ago. In the process of developing health and psychosocial assessment forms that would be used by nurses and social workers for California' then soon-to-be-created Multipurpose Senior Service Program, he noticed none of the questionnaires measured social isolation, which he considered a significant omission.
"Older adults' social ties are central to social work and health care," Lubben said.