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Social support in maintaining mental health and quality of life among community-dwelling older people with functional limitations in Malaysia: a population-based cross-sectional study.

BMJ Open 2024 May 16
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to examine the mediation role of perceived social support in the relationship between functional limitations, depressive symptoms and quality of life among older people in Malaysia.

SETTING: The Malaysian National Health Morbidity Survey 2018: Elderly Health was a cross-sectional health community survey among adults aged 50 and above.

PARTICIPANTS: 3977 community-dwelling older Malaysians aged 60 and above.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Functional limitations were defined as personal activities of daily living (PADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL), tested in separate paths in all analyses. PADL was measured using the Barthel Index, while IADL was measured using the Lawton and Brody scale. Perceived social support, depressive symptoms and quality of life were measured using the Duke Social Support Index, Geriatric Depression Scale-14 and Control, Autonomy, Self-Realisation and Pleasure-19 tools. We used mediation analysis through structural equation modelling to explore the role of perceived social support.

RESULTS: Perceived social support mediated the relationship between PADL and IADL with depressive symptoms, with the indirect effects at -0.079 and -0.103, respectively (p<0.001). Similarly, perceived social support mediated the relationship between PADL and IADL with quality of life, with the indirect effects at 0.238 and 0.301, respectively (p<0.001). We performed serial multiple mediation analysis and found that perceived social support and depressive symptoms mediated the path between PADL and IADL with quality of life, with the indirect effects at 0.598 and 0.747, respectively (p<0.001). The relationship between functional limitations and all outcomes remained significant in all mediation analyses.

CONCLUSION: The present study provides evidence that perceived social support relieves the influence of functional limitations on depressive symptoms and declining quality of life among older people. Therefore, it is imperative to establish a social support system to improve the overall well-being of older people.

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