Published Papers - Abstract 503

McLaughlin D, Leung J, Almeida O & Dobson A. Social support and mortality: If you're sick, friends can't save you. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 2011; 59(10): 1984-1986

Background: Social support and mortality are associated, but it is unclear whether the association is the same in men and women. It is also unclear whether social support remains protective after controlling for physical condition.Objectives: To investigate risk of all-cause mortality associated with social support, identify whether sex differences exist, and determine whether the association is significant after taking account of differences in baseline health status. Methods: Data from 2,625 men aged 73-78 and 4,252 women aged 73-78 who participated in two Australian cohort studies were used. Deaths were identified from the National Death Index and survival was calculated as the number of days between return of survey and date of death or survival at October 1st, 2009. Measures included social support (short form of the Duke Social Support Index), body mass index, smoking status, diagnosed chronic medical conditions, education and marital status. Proportional hazard models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) for social networks and for satisfaction for men and women. Analyses were repeated separately for healthy and unhealthy participants. Results: 542 (20.7%) men and 1,170 (27.5%) women died. Overall, larger network size (HR=0.89; confidence interval (CI)=0.84-0.95) and greater satisfaction with support (HR=0.85; 95%CI=0.73-0.99)were associated with lower mortality. In the separate analyses for healthy and unhealthy participants, the only significant association was for larger network size and lower risk of mortality in healthy men and women. Sex differences were not significant. Discussion: For older adults, social support is protective of mortality, but the protective benefit differs according to health status. Sex differences are not apparent.