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Soc Sci Med. 2003 Jan;56(2):247-57.

Social relations and depressive symptoms in older adults with knee osteoarthritis.

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Psychology Department, Brandeis University, Mailstop 062, Waltham, MA 02454-9110, USA.


Depressive symptoms often occur as a comorbid condition in the context of chronic illnesses such as arthritis. However, the role of both social support and social strain in relation to depressive symptoms has not been adequately explored. This study investigates the association of support and strain with depressive symptoms among a sample of older men and women in the USA (N = 298, mean age 71 years) who have knee osteoarthritis (OA). Data were collected from a survey mailed to residents who had previously participated in the Osteoarthritis Study in Seniors (OASIS), a longitudinal observational study of OA progression (survey response rate was 77%). Hierarchical regression analyses revealed significant associations of both support and strain with depressive symptoms, while statistically controlling for a variety of demographic, psychosocial and disease-related variables. In addition, social support significantly buffered the relation between social strain and depressive symptoms. The interaction effect was not significantly different for women and men, nor were the individual associations of support and strain with depressive symptoms conditioned by participant gender. The results add to the ongoing discussion regarding gender and social relations as well as highlight the role of both positive (social support) and negative (social strain) aspects of social interactions in relation to the psychological functioning of older adults coping with a chronic illness.

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