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Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Canadian Adults: to what Extent Might Social Support Subdomains and Negative Social Interactions Predict Psychological Distress?

Psychiatric Quarterly 2023 September 29
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may involve persistent and unwarranted anxiety, fear, and rumination, combined with various somatic symptoms (e.g., fatigue, dizziness, muscle tension, and nausea) which may compel many to withdraw socially. While studies report an inverse relationship between social support and psychological distress among adults with GAD, those that assess the distinct influence of negative social relations, particularly by sex are limited. The primary aims of this study were to (a) assess and compare respondents with a lifetime of GAD in terms of levels of perceived social support (using the Social Provisions Scale - 10 Items (SPS-10) Scale), negative social interactions (using the Negative Social Interaction (NSI) Scale) and psychological distress (using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10)), and (b) determine whether SPS-10 subdomains and NSIs predict psychological distress. Compared with a matched sample without GAD, respondents with GAD were more likely to be single, divorced, and have lower incomes. Respondents with GAD also had lower overall SPS-10 scores, and lower scores for each subdomain (i.e., 'guidance', 'reliable alliance', 'reassurance of worth', 'attachment', and 'social integration'), and higher NSI and K10 scores. Although no difference in psychological distress was observed between men and women with GAD, men had lower SPS-10 scores (overall and for each subdomain), while women had higher NSIs scores. A subsequent hierarchical regression for respondents with GAD revealed that 'social integration' and 'reassurance of worth' predicted lower psychological distress, while higher NSI scores predicted higher psychological distress. Finding implications and future research are discussed.

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