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J Clin Nurs. 2012 Jan;21(1-2):111-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2011.03868.x. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Association between social support and depression in the general population: the HUNT study, a cross-sectional survey.

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Department of Health Science, Nord-Trøndelag University College, Namsos, Norway.



The aim was to investigate the associations between perceived social support and depression in a general population in relation to gender and age.


Social support is seen as one of the social determinants for overall health in the general population. Studies have found higher probability of experiencing depression among people who have a lack of social support; evidence from the general population has been more limited. Subjective perception that support would be available if needed may reduce and prevent depression and unnecessary suffering.


A cross-sectional survey with self-reported health was used.


A total of 40,659 men and women aged 20-89 years living in Nord-Trøndelag County of Norway with valid ratings of depression subscale of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale in the The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study 3 were used. Logistic regression was used to quantify associations between two types of perceived support (emotional and tangible) and depression. Gender, age and interaction effects were controlled for in the final model.


The main finding was that self-rated perceived support was significantly associated with Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale-defined depression, even after controlling for age and gender; emotional support (OR = 3·14) and tangible support (OR = 2·93). The effects of emotional and tangible support differ between genders. Interaction effects were found for age groups and both emotional and tangible support.


Self-rated perceived functional social support is associated with Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale-defined depression. In the group of older people who have a lack of social support, women seem to need more emotional support and men tangible support.


Health care providers should consider the close association between social support and depression in their continuing care, particularly in the older people.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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