The impact of social networks on the relationship between functional impairment and depressive symptoms in older adults

Kimberly J Stoeckel, Howard Litwin
International Psychogeriatrics 2016, 28 (1): 39-47

BACKGROUND: To examine the role of meaningful relationship characteristics, defined here as social network type, in relation to the association between functional impairment and depressive symptoms.

METHODS: The sample included respondents aged 65 years and older (n = 26,401) from the fourth wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Respondents were classified into one of seven relationship network types (Distal Children (living at a distance), Proximal Family (living nearby), Spouse, Other Family, Friend, Other, and No Network) according to the predominant characteristics of their most meaningful relationships. A two-stage regression analysis was performed in which the number of depressive symptoms was first regressed on the extent of functional impairment and network type, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, cognition, health, and country. In the second stage, variables representing the interactions between functional impairment and network type were considered.

RESULTS: The compositional characteristics of respondents' relationships in later life, as defined by social network type, were associated with depressive symptoms. In particular, when experiencing functional impairment, those without any meaningful relationships were found to have more depressive symptoms when compared to all other network types. The findings underscore the importance of meaningful relationships for the mental health of older adults experiencing functional impairment as well as the risk of experiencing depression among those who maintain no personal social network.

CONCLUSIONS: The study shows that differing constellations of meaningful relationships in later life yield different associations with mental health, especially when taking functional limitations into account.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"