Strain, social support, and distress in old age

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Scopus citations


This analysis examined the relationship between life-strain (e.g., physical health problems, economic deprivation, and ADL impairment) and psychosomatic and emotional distress in old age, while taking into account the effects of age, race, sex, education, social support, and other measures of social resources. The data was drawn from a statewide household survey (N = 2,146) of noninstitutionalized older people. Using multiple regression analysis with tests for statistical interaction, the findings revealed that women, whites, those living alone, and those with less education had greater sources of strain. Individuals with greater sources of strain were also more likely to receive social support, although they tended to have smaller social networks and less social contact. Health status and ADL were the strongest predictors of distress. Social support was positively related whereas social contact was negatively related to distress. Social support had a moderating influence on the relationship between ADL impairment and psychosomatic symptoms of distress. Other measures of social resources, such as living arrangement and support network size, had neither main nor interactive effects on distress. The findings were discussed in light of their implications for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-113
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging

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