Research highlights importance of social support for bereaved older adults
PHILADELPHIA — Data presented here suggest that interventions for bereaved older adults may be more effective if they address social support, particularly among those with high anxiety.
“What’s significant about these findings is that social support fully mediated the relationship between anxiety and later depression,” Kayla Lord, BA, of the Pennsylvania State University, told Healio.com/Psychiatry. “So the relationship between anxiety predicting depression was no longer significant when we added social support as the mediator.”
To explore the relationship between bereavement, depression and anxiety and social support, researchers analyzed data for 250 bereaved older adults. Anxiety was measured immediately after bereavement via the 10-item anxiety subscale of the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised. Social support was measured 18 months after bereavement and depression was measured 48 months after bereavement via the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale.
Researchers found that anxiety significantly positively predicted depression 48 months later (P < .01).
Social support significantly mediated the relationship between anxiety and depression. Anxiety was a significant predictor of lower social support (P < .01) and social support was a significant predictor of lower depression (P < .01).
Further, the direct relationship between anxiety and later depression was not significant when accounting for social support, indicating social support fully mediated the relationship.
“We only did this in a brief sample so of course we would need to replicate it in a nonbrief sample. Nevertheless, we felt these findings may suggest that interventions for bereaved individuals, especially bereaved individuals with high anxiety, should include an intervention that targets social engagement and fostering social support networks instead of avoiding social interaction,” Lord said. – by Amanda Oldt
Lord K, et al. Social support in bereaved spouses mediates the relationship between anxiety and depression. Presented at: Anxiety and Depression Association of America Conference; March 31-April 3, 2016; Philadelphia.
Disclosure: Lord reports no relevant financial disclosures.