Background: The article discusses the relations between different social networks, and their role in providing support during illness. The authors reviewed research projects addressing the influence of social networks on health of general and elderly population, conducted in the world over the pastdecades. Specific features of links established between social networks in Slovenia are presented, with special emphasis on changes in the provision of social support to the older population during illness. Methods: Empirical data from research conducted in Slovenia in the years 1987 and 2002 are analysed. Owing to limited comparability of the indicators measured and because of the small number of respondents in 1987, only simple bivariate comparisons using significance tests for nominal variables were done. Results: Social networks provide support in the case of illness. Data for 1987and 2000 identified close family as the most important source of social support. In 2002, however, the role of the partner and parents as providers ofsupport was significantly diminished, while the support role played by the extended family, neighbours and friends became more important. The role of thepartner as the source of support was more diminished for women than for men. Other changes in social networks were connected with marital status, educational level and age of the respondents. Conclusions: Further research into the role of social networks providing support during illness will increase the understanding of this phenomenon in a comparative perspective.