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Health Soc Work. 1991 Nov;16(4):245-57.

Social support networks of white and black elderly people at risk for institutionalization.

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Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106.


The literature examining the role of social network size and support in moderating the relationship between stress and illness in the aged population has not taken racial differences into account. This study compares the potential moderating influence of social network size and support on the relationship between life stress and depressive symptoms for black and white community-dwelling elderly people at increased risk for institutionalization. Study data come from in-person interviews with a sample of 191 old-old (75 years and older) and poor residents of a three-census-tract area in Pittsburgh. Approximately 50 percent were white and 50 percent were black. Results indicate that the moderating effects of social network size and support were different for the black people than for the white people in this sample. For white aged people, having greater social support and a larger social network reduces the association between stress and depressive symptoms, as expected. For black elderly people, however, having more network members and receiving support from them is associated with a stronger relationship between stress and depressive symptomatology.

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