Connecting the dots: a comparison of network analysis and exploratory factor analysis to examine psychosocial syndemic indicators among HIV-negative sexual minority men
Gepubliceerd in: Journal of Behavioral Medicine | Uitgave 6/2020Log in om toegang te krijgen
Syndemics, or comorbid and mutually reinforcing psychosocial problems, are associated with increased HIV risk among men who have sex with men (MSM). Although the dynamic interplay among syndemic indicators is theorized to be crucial for increasing risk of HIV acquisition, novel approaches are needed to understand how these syndemic problems interrelate. This study examined the associations between nine self-reported syndemic indicators in 194 MSM at high risk of HIV acquisition. We compared exploratory factor analyses (EFA) to a network analysis. In the present study, network analysis consisted of edges representing bidirectional partial polychoric correlations between nodes, which represent psychosocial syndemic indicators. EFA yielded a 1-factor solution including suicidal ideation (SI), injection drug use (IDU), depression, social anxiety, intimate partner violence, substance use, and sexual compulsivity, and excluded heavy drinking and childhood sexual abuse. Network analysis yielded a pattern of interconnectedness with the most central nodes being SI, IDU, substance use, and depression. Statistically significant relationships (absolute edge weights) were found between SI and depression, social anxiety, and IDU, and IDU and substance use. These results suggest that depression and substance use, especially more severe presentations of these conditions such as SI and IDU, are prominent interconnected components of the HIV syndemic among MSM at high risk for HIV acquisition. SI, IDU, substance use, and depression may indeed be prudent targets of intervention. Future research on the inclusion of these syndemic indicators in analytical models involving interaction terms may be warranted.