Details of Publication 562 for Project A169:

McLaughlin D, Leung J, Pachana N, Hankey G, Flicker L & Dobson A. Social support and subsequent disability: It's not the size of your network that counts. Age & Ageing, 2012; 41: 674-677

Background: high levels of social support and engagement may help sustain good health and functional ability. However, the definition of social support in previous research has been inconsistent and findings are mixed. The aim of this analysis was to explore the effect of two aspects of social support on subsequent disability in a group of community dwelling older women and men.Methods: data were drawn from two concurrent prospective observational cohort studies of community-based older Australian women (N = 2,013) and men (N = 680). Baseline and follow-up data were drawn from the second (1999) and fifth (2008) surveys of the women and the second (2001) and third (2008) surveys of the men. At baseline, social support was measured by the two subscales (social network and subjective support) of the Duke Social Support Index (DSSI). The outcome measure was Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs).Results: overall, social network size was not associated with subsequent disability in either women or men. After adjusting for health status at baseline, lack of satisfaction with social support was associated with greater difficulties in ADLs and IADLs for both women and men.Conclusions: our results suggest that the provision of social support is insufficient to limit subsequent disability: support provided must be subjectively perceived to be relevant and adequate.

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