Improving functional status in arthritis: The effect of social support

Morris Weinberger, Sharon L. Hiner, William M. Tierney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

67 Scopus citations


We present data from a longitudinal study of patients with symptomatic osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee and/or hip. One component of this study involved interviewers telephoning patients bi-weekly for 6 months to inquire about stressors which they have experienced and to obtain self-assessment of their health. We hypothesized that telephone interviewers (TI) may provide OA patients with social support, and thus improve their functional status. Patients' functional status (physical disability, psychological disability, and pain) improved significantly after 6 months of receiving bi-weekly telephone calls. Since our outcome variables have been shown to be reliable measures of disability over time, and because OA is a progressively degenerative process, one would expect deterioration rather than improvement. Furthermore, since patients reported more social support at 6 months than at baseline, we attributed the improvement in health status to the TIs being viewed as a source of social support to elderly persons who may have support deficits. We suggest that future studies redefine TIs' roles from an unbiased data collector to a provider of social support. TIs should follow their own panel of patients so that continuity can be established. Furthermore, TIs should undergo training about OA, its treatment, common medications and their side effects, and other pertinent information. In this manner, social support may be further enhanced and provide the greatest potential to improve patients' health status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)899-904
Number of pages6
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1986


  • functional status
  • health status
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Health(social science)

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