THE INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL SUPPORT ON PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS IN OLDER PERSONS: AN EXAMINATION OF INTERACTION PROCESSES IN AUSTRALIA1, 2

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Abstract

Summary.

Social support is proposed as a coping mechanism against anxiety and depression amongst older persons, but few data have examined how this occurs. This study assessed the contributions of two sub-components of social support as mediators against psychological distress—broadly defined as anxiety and depression. 1,560 men and 1,758 women from the Hunter Community Study (Australia) completed the Duke Social Support Scale and the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale. The Duke Social Support Scale examined the amount of social interaction and satisfaction with social interactions. Significant mediating effects of social support were found in the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale items measuring depression but not anxiety. Satisfaction with social support was a significant predictor of Kessler Psychological Distress Scale total score and Sadness items, but the amount of social support was not a predictor of stress. Social support may assist with symptoms of depression, i.e., specific sadness/depressed mood, but not necessarily with anxiety. Implications for policy and service delivery were discussed.

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