TitleResource or Hindrance? The benefits and costs of social support for functional difficulties and its implications for depressive symptoms.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsSharifian, N, O'Brien, EL
JournalAging Ment Health
Date Published2019 05
KeywordsAdult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Depression, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Self Concept, Social Support

OBJECTIVES: The impact of social support on the relationship between stress and well-being remains somewhat inconclusive, with work suggesting either null, buffering, or amplification effects. The current study investigated the conditions in which perceived social support is likely to act as a buffer or amplifier by considering individual differences in self-perceptions of aging.

METHODS: Using data from two subsamples of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (graduates: 70-74 years, siblings: 40-92 years), we examined how perceived social support (emotional versus instrumental) and self-perceptions of aging (SPA) moderated the effect of functional limitations on depressive symptoms (DS).

RESULTS: Although emotional support positively predicted DS, its effects did not depend on SPA. Instrumental support was associated with both increases and decreases in well-being that were dependent upon SPA. Functional limitations predicted more DS at both low and high levels of instrumental support when SPA were negative. However, when SPA were positive, low levels of social support were found to decrease depressive symptoms, and high levels were found to increase depressive symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: The impact of social social may enhance or deteriorate well-being, depending on how it interacts with self-evaluative beliefs. Findings offer insights as to the boundary conditions associated with the (positive) effects of social support and SPA, and highlight the need for continued research on the mechanisms associated these effects.

Alternate JournalAging Ment Health
PubMed ID29424561