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J Health Soc Behav. 1999 Dec;40(4):344-59.

Social support and depressed mood: a structural analysis.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.


Current literature on social support identifies social structure as a source of distress. However, past efforts tend to operationalize structure in terms of demographic characteristics. The present paper argues that structure should be conceived of as participation and involvement in community and social relations. Structure may include community ties, social networks and intimate ties. We hypothesize that the three elements represent the outer layer (belongingness), the intermediary layer (bonding), and the inner layer (binding) of social relations and should exhibit differentiated effects on mental health. We further hypothesize that these structural elements, in sequence, provide functional (i.e., instrumental-expressive, perceived-received, and routine-non-routine) supports which, in turn, prevent or protect against distress. Using data from the 1993-1994 Albany survey, we construct measures for elements of structural and functional support to test the relationship between the two as well as their effects on depression. Results confirm that elements of structural support, as predicted, differentially affect functional supports, and that the elements of both structural and functional supports exert direct effects on depression. Further, structural supports also exert indirect effects on depression, mediated by functional supports.

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