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Social Support from Friends and Psychological Distress Among Elderly Persons: Moderator Effects of Age

Georg E. Matt and Alfred Dean
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 34, No. 3 (Sep., 1993), pp. 187-200
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137201
Page Count: 14
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Social Support from Friends and Psychological Distress Among Elderly Persons: Moderator Effects of Age
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Abstract

In this study, the relationships among age, sex, friend support, and psychological distress are examined among elderly persons. Structural equation modeling and a longitudinal design are used to examine direct, indirect, and moderator (interaction) effects over a 22-month interval. Findings suggest that different causal processes operate among persons over the age of 70 (old-old) and those 50 to 70 years (young-old); the cross-lagged effects of friend support on distress and of distress on friend support are only observed in the older group. Compared to the young-old, the old-old receive less friend support at time 2 (T2) if they experienced psychological distress at time 1 (T1), and the old-old are more distressed at T2 if they received low levels of support at T1. As a result of this age interaction, the total effects of sex on distress and support at T2 are twice as large in the sample of old-old persons as in the sample of young-old persons. Such findings suggest that the old-old in general and old-old men in particular are especially vulnerable to psychological distress when losing friend support, and to lose friend support when experiencing psychological distress. Implications of these and other findings are discussed.

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