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Aging Ment Health. 2018 Nov 8:1-10. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2018.1495176. [Epub ahead of print]

Is the association between social network types, depressive symptoms and life satisfaction mediated by the perceived availability of social support? A cross-sectional analysis using the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.

Author information

1
a Department of Community Health Sciences , University of Manitoba , Winnipeg , Canada.
2
b Department of Psychology , Brandon University , Brandon , Canada.
3
c Department of Psychology , University of Manitoba , Winnipeg , Canada.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

The objectives of this study were to examine: 1) whether the relationship between social network types, depressive symptoms and life satisfaction is mediated by different types of perceived social support; and, 2) whether social support plays a mediational role for married versus unmarried older adults.

METHODS:

The study was based on national, baseline data (Tracking Cohort) from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging for participants aged 65 to 85 (Nā€‰=ā€‰8782). Five social network types derived from cluster analysis were used as predictors in the mediation analyses, with the four social support subscales of the Medical Outcomes Survey (MOS) Social Support Survey (tangible, emotional, positive social interactions, and affectionate) included as mediators, and depressive symptoms and life satisfaction as outcome variables. Socio-demographic and physical health variables were included as covariates.

RESULTS:

Significant indirect effects emerged, with less diverse social network structures generally associated with less social support which, in turn, was related to more depressive symptoms and lower life satisfaction. However, different findings emerged for different types of social support, for participants who were married and unmarried, and for depressive symptoms versus life satisfaction.

CONCLUSION:

Our findings suggest that restricted social networks that are reflective of social isolation, as well as those that are intermediate in terms of their diversity can create gaps in perceived social support and, consequently, can negatively impact mental health and life satisfaction.

KEYWORDS:

Social network types; mediation; mental health; older Canadians; social isolation; social support

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