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Psychol Aging. 1996 Mar;11(1):34-44.

Social support as a mediator in the relation between functional status and quality of life in older adults.

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  • 1University Center for Social and Urban Research, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15620, USA.


The relations among physical functioning, social support, depressive symptoms, and life satisfaction were examined in a national sample of 4,734 adults age 65 and older. Regression analyses were used to examine the relative importance of objective and subjective support measures in understanding the relation between physical impairment and quality of life. Impairment was associated with fewer friendship contacts, fewer family contacts, less perceived belonging support, and less perceived tangible aid, but only measures of perceived support predicted depressive symptomatology. A structural equation modeling approach was then used to explore the mediational role of perceived social support in the relation between impairment and quality of life variables. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that lower reported social support is an important reason for decreases in life satisfaction and increases in depressive symptoms found among older adult populations. Implications for understanding the role of social support in attenuating the effects of physical disability in older adults are discussed.

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