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Am J Epidemiol. 1992 Feb 15;135(4):356-68.

Social support and depressive symptoms in the elderly.

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Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH.


The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of characteristics of social networks and support on depressive symptoms in the elderly. The subjects were 1,962 noninstitutionalized persons 65 years and older from the New Haven Establishment of Populations for Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly in 1982, who were available to give a complete follow-up interview in 1985. Baseline depression, functional disability in 1982, and any change in disability by 1985 were considered as additional influences on 1985 depression, requiring adjustment along with sociodemographic variables. Multiple regression procedures were used to simultaneously examine the variables. Baseline depression, functional disability, and change in functional disability made the largest contribution to explaining the variance in depression. Among the social support and network characteristics, loss of a spouse, adequacy of emotional support, and its change during 1982-1985 made the largest contributions. Other significant characteristics in relative order of magnitude of effect, based on contrast tests, included tangible support adequacy and its change, loss of a confidant between 1982 and 1985, number of children making weekly visits and change in this number by 1985, and the absence of a confidant in both 1982 and 1985. For mental health outcomes, these findings emphasize the need to consider specific dimensions of social support and networks rather than global measures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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