, Volume 17, Issue 11-12, pp 737-749

An examination of sex differences in social support among older men and women

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This paper is designed to empirically investigate sex differences in social support. Several types of sex differences are examined, including quantity and quality of support, the relationship between quantitative and qualitative measures of support, the number and source of support provided and received, and the relative predictive power of quality and quantity of support on well-being. The data are taken from the Supports of the Elderly, a national survey of older people (Kahn and Antonucci, 1984). Included in the present study are 214 men and 166 women ranging in age from 50 to 95 who are married and have at least one child. The analyses reveal that women have larger networks and receive supports from multiple sources, while men tend to rely on their spouses exclusively. Men report greater satisfaction with marriage than women. Quantitative supports are more related to qualitative supports for women than for men. For both sexes, the quality of support rather than the quantity of support has significantly greater effects on well-being; both the quantity and quality of social support have a greater impact on the well-being of women compared to men.

Preparation of this paper was supported in part by Grant #AG01632 and by a Research Career Development Award to the senior author (#AG00271) from the National Institutes on Aging. Dr. Akiyama was supported by AG00117, a Research Training Grant from the National Institutes on Aging. The authors would like to express their thanks to Sue Meyer for help in the preparation of this manuscript; to Halimah Hassan for assistance with data analyses; and to Anita DeLongis for comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.
The data computation upon which this paper is based employed the OSIRIS IV computer software package, which was developed by the Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, using funds from the Survey Research Center, Inter-University Consortium for Political Research, National Science Foundation, and other sources.