Making Home: The Role of Social Networks on Identity, Health, and Quality of Life Among Rural Lesbian and Gay Older Adults

Marc Aaron Guest, Elizabeth G. Hunter, Nancy E. Schoenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objectives: Gay and lesbian older persons face a host of health inequalities related to their identity as they age. Challenges to health access and appropriate social support may be even more exacerbated for those living in rural environments; this may be due to the lack of supportive and affirming social connections. This project aimed to explore and describe the social networks and the relationship of these social networks to identity, health, and quality of life of gay and lesbian individuals in rural communities. Research Design and Methods: Social network data on network type, size, and social capital were collected and supplemented by quantitative questionnaires relating to health, quality of life, marginalization, and identity. Results: Participants (Nb=b25) were recruited from three states. Thirteen participants self-identified as gay and 12 as lesbian. All but one identified as non-Hispanic White. The average age of all participants was 60.32 years. Findings indicate that rural gay and lesbian individuals develop networks with little consideration for network members' acceptance of their identity. Participants reported an average network size of 9.32 individuals. Gay men reported higher perceptual affinity (.69) than lesbian participants (.62). Lesbian networks showed significantly (pb=b.0262) greater demographic similarity (.58) than aging gay men's networks (.55). Aging gay men (.89) reported statistically stronger (pb=b.0078) network ties than aging lesbian females (.78). Among participants in this study, network size is not correlated with the health and quality of life of rural aging lesbian and gay individuals. Still, personal identity congruence does appear to relate to health and quality of life. Discussion and Implications: The findings highlight the collective need to continue research into sexual minority aging and rural sexual minority aging, particularly employing novel methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberigad082
JournalInnovation in Aging
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2023


  • Egocentric data collection
  • Environmental gerontology
  • LGBTQ health
  • Rural aging
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

Cite this