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The Finnmark study. Social support, social network and mental distress in a prospective population study

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Abstract

Background: Earlier studies on the direct effect of social support and social network upon mental health have mostly been done in cross-sectional studies and the results have been conflicting. Methods: The direct effect of social network and social support upon mental distress was tested in population-based health surveys conducted in 1987, 1990 and 1993. The population consisted of all persons aged 40–62 years and a random sample of persons aged between 20 and 39 years living in five small municipalities in Finnmark, the northernmost county in Norway. The attendance rates were 77%, 74% and 70% for the three health surveys, respectively. All those who had attended the health surveys more than once and answered the key questions about mental distress, social support and social network were selected for analyses (966 persons who attended both the two first health surveys and 1425 persons attending both the two last surveys). A theoretical full cross-lagged panel model was used to search for the predictive effects of time 1 variables (mental distress, social network and social support) upon corresponding subsequent variables. Results: Mental distress, social support and social network at time 1 strongly predicted the corresponding variable at the next time point. Emotional support at time 1 exerted a weak positive effect upon mental distress on the next time point, explaining approximately 1% of the variance. Neither the social network nor instrumental support at time 1 predicted degree of mental distress at the subsequent time point. Conclusion: We conclude that social network and social support have very little direct predictive effect upon mental distress 3 years later in this population.

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Accepted: 5 July 1999

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Olstad, R., Sexton, H. & Søgaard, A. The Finnmark study. Social support, social network and mental distress in a prospective population study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 34, 519–525 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s001270050170

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Keywords

  • Social Support
  • Social Network
  • Health Survey
  • Emotional Support
  • Mental Distress