Ageing International

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 477–495 | Cite as

Association Between Social Support and Health of Aging Adults with Dementia

  • Allyson PakstisEmail author
  • Jinhee Kim
  • Vibha Bhargava


The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to explore the relationship between social support and the health outcomes of older adults, ages 50 and older, with dementia in the United States, using data from the 2012 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (N = 446). The dependent variables included depressive symptoms (CES-D), self-reported health, number of chronic conditions, and the sum of activities of daily living (ADL) limitations. The key independent variables were measures of social support including marital status, children living within ten miles, relatives near, good friends near or in congregation, how often they attend religious services, relatives in congregation, and number of times they get together with people. Guided by the convoy model, this study focused on the layers of social support that typically surround an aging adult and the types of support within those layers. Findings of the logistic regression suggest that attending religious services was significantly associated with the ADL (p = .004). Having friends near or in a congregation was negatively associated with number of ADL limitations (p < .001), and positively associated with the likelihood of fewer depressive symptoms (p < .001). Results suggest that social support may be playing an important role in the health of aging adults with dementia. It may be important to focus on how to better ensure reliable social networks for aging adults with dementia and how to help secure meaningful social connections. Future research should prioritize assessing the effects of the quality of social supports on different types of health outcomes, within varying social proximities.


Convoy model Dementia Aging adults Social support Health outcomes 



This study was supported by faculty in the Family Science Department of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland, as well as Saeeun Choi, Ph.D. of Korea National University of Education.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors do not have any conflicts of interest related to this research.

Informed Consent

As there is no person or personal data appearing in the paper, there is no one from whom permission should be obtained in order to publish personal data.

Ethical Treatment of Experimental Subjects (Animal and Human)

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


  1. Amieva, H., Stoykova, R., Matharan, F., Helmer, C., Antonucci, T. C., & Dartigues, J. F. (2010). What aspects of social network are protective for dementia? Not the quantity but the quality of social interactions is protective up to 15 years later. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72, 905–911. Scholar
  2. Antonucci, T. C., & Akiyama, H. (1987). Social networks in adult life and a preliminary examination of the convoy model. Journal of Gerontology, 43, 519–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Antonucci, T. C., Ajrouch, K. J., & Birditt, K. S. (2013). The Convoy Model: Explaining social relations from a multidisciplinary perspective. The Gerontologist, 54(1), 82–92. Scholar
  4. Ashida, S., & Heaney, C. A. (2008). Differential associations of social support and social connectedness with structural features of social networks and the health status of older adults. Journal of Aging and Health, 20(7). Scholar
  5. Barnes, D. E., & Yaffe, K. (2011). The projected impact of risk factor reductions on Alzheimer’s disease prevalence. The Lancet Neurology, 10, 819–828. Scholar
  6. Berkman, L. F., & Syme, L. (1979). Social networks, host resistance, and mortality: A nine-year follow-up study of Alameda County residents. American Journal of Epidemiology, 109, 186–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berkman, L. F., Glass, T., Brissette, I., & Seeman, T. E. (2000). From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium. Social Science & Medicine, 51, 843–857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity theory. American Psychologist, 54, 165–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chien, S., Campbell, N., Chan, C., Hayden, O., Hurd, M., Main, R., …St. Clair, P. (2015). RAND HRS data documentation, Version O. Retrieved from
  10. Cohen, S. (2004). Social relationships and health. American Psychologist, 59, 676–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cohen, S., Mermelstein, R., Kamarck, T., & Hoberman, H. M. (1985). Measuring the functional components of social support. In I. G. Sarason & B. R. Sarason (Eds.), Social support: Theory, research and applications (pp. 73–94). NATO ASI Series (D: Behavioural and Social Sciences)). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cornwell, E. Y., & Waite, L. J. (2009). Social disconnectedness, perceived isolation, and health among older adults. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50(1), 31–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crooks, V. C., Lubben, J., Petitti, D. B., Little, D., & Chiu, V. (2008). Social network, cognitive function, and dementia incidence among elderly women. American Journal of Public Health, 98(7), 1221–1227. Scholar
  14. Dewey, M. E., & Saz, P. (2001). Dementia, cognitive impairment and mortality in persons aged 65 and over living in the community: A systematic review of the literature. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 16(8), 751–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Etters, L., Goodall, D., & Harrison, B. E. (2008). Caregiver burden among dementia patient caregivers: A review of the literature. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 20(8), 423–428. Scholar
  16. George, L. K., Ellison, C. G., & Larson, D. B. (2002). Explaining the relationships between religious involvement and health. Psychological Inquiry: An international Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory, 13(3). Scholar
  17. Hashimoto, K., Kurita, H., Haratani, T., Fujii, K., & Ishibashi, T. (1999). Direct and buffering effects of social support on depressive symptoms of the elderly with home help. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 53, 95-100. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1819.1999.00478.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heaney, C. A., & Israel, B. A. (2008). Social networks and social support. In K. Glanz, B. K. Rimer, & K. Viswanath (Eds.), Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice (4th ed., pp. 189–210). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  19. Hebert, L. E., Weuve, J., Scherr, P. A., & Evans, D. A. (2013). Alzheimer disease in the United States (2010-2050) estimated using the 2010 census. Neurology, 80(19), 1778–1783. Scholar
  20. Heeringa, S. G., & Connor, J. (1995). Technical description of the Health and Retirement Study sample design: HRS/AHEAD documentation report DR-002. Retrieved from
  21. Heron, M. P., Hoyert, D. L., Murphy, S. L., Xu, J. Q., Kochanek, K. D., & Tejada-Vera, B. (2009). Deaths: Final data for 2006. National Vial Statistics Reports, 57(14). Hyattsville: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  22. Ho, S. C., Chan, A., Woo, J., Chong, P., & Sham, A. (2009). Impact of caregiving on health and quality of life: A comparative population-based study of caregivers for elderly persons and noncaregivers. The Journals of Gerontology Series A, 64(8), 873–879. Scholar
  23. Hurd, M. D., Martorell, P., Delavande, A., Mullen, K. J., & Langa, K. M. (2013). Monetary costs of dementia in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine, 368, 1363–1334. Scholar
  24. Jorm, A. F. (2000). Is depression a risk factor for dementia or cognitive decline? A review. Gerontology, 46(4), 219–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Langa, K. M., Chernew, M. E., Kabeto, M. U., Herzog, A. R., Ofstedal, M. B., Willis, R. J., et al. (2001). National estimates of the quantity and cost of informal caregiving for the elderly with dementia. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 16(11), 770–778. Scholar
  26. Langford, C. P. H., Bowsher, J., Maloney, J. P., & Lillis, P. P. (1997). Social support: A conceptual analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 25, 95–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nicholson, N. R. (2012). A review of social isolation: An important but under assessed condition in older adults. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 33(2–3), 137–152. Scholar
  28. Pharr, J. R., Francis, C. D., Terry, C., & Clark, M. C. (2014). Culture, caregiving, and health: Exploring the influence of culture on family caregiver experiences. ISRN Public Health, 2014, 1–8. Scholar
  29. Pinquart, M., & Sorensen, S. (2011). Spouses, adult children, and children in-law as caregivers of older adults: A meta-analytic comparison. Psychology and Aging, 26(1), 1–14. Scholar
  30. Radloff, L. S., & Teri, L. (1986). Use of the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale with older adults. Clinical Gerontologist, 5(1–2), 119–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reblin, M., & Uchino, B. (2008). Social and emotional support and its implication for health. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 21(2), 201–205. Scholar
  32. Roff, L. L., Klemmack, D. L., Simon, C., Cho, G. W., Parker, M. W., Koenig, H. G., et al. (2006). Functional limitations and religious service attendance among African American and white older adults. Health & Social Work, 31(4), 246–255. Scholar
  33. Sarason, B. R., Sarason, I. G., & Gurung, R. A. R. (1997). Close relationships and health outcomes: A key to the role of social support. In S. Duck (Ed.), Handbook of personal relationships: Theory, research and interventions (2nd ed., pp. 547–573). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  34. Schulz, R., O’Brien, A. T., Bookwala, J., & Fleissner, K. (1995). Psychiatric and physical morbidity effects of dementia caregiving: Prevalence, correlates, and causes. Gerontologist, 35(6), 771–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Seeman, T. E. (2000). Health promoting effects of friends and family on health outcomes in older adults. American Journal of Health Promotion, 14, 362–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Seeman, T. E., Berkman, L. F., Blazer, D. G., & Rowe, J. W. (1994). Social ties and support and neuroendocrine function: The MacArthur studies of successful aging. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 16, 95–106.Google Scholar
  37. Steffick, D. E. (2000). HRS Documentation Report DR-005. Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research; Ann Arbor, MI. Documentation of Affective Functioning Measures in the Health and Retirement Study.Google Scholar
  38. Thiyagarajan, J. A., Prince, M., & Webber, M. (2014). Social support network typologies and health outcomes of older people in low and middle income countries – A 10/66 Dementia Research Group population-based study. International Review of Psychiatry, 26(4), 476–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Uchino, B. N. (2004). Social support and physical health: Understanding the health consequences of our relationships. New Haven: Yale University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Uchino, B. N. (2006). Social support and health: A review of physiological processes potentially underlying links to disease outcomes. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29(4), 377–387. Scholar
  41. Uchino, B. N. (2009). Understanding the links between social support and physical health. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(3), 236–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Waite, A., Bebbington, P., Skelton-Robinson, M., & Orrell, M. (2004). Life events, depression and social support in dementia. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 43, 313–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wallace, R., Herzog, A. R., Ofstedal, M. B., Steffick, D., Fonda, S., & Langa, K. (2000). Documentation of affective functioning measures in the health and retirement study. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  44. World Health Organization. (2015). Dementia Fact Sheet. Retrieved from
  45. World Health Organization, & Alzheimer’s Disease International. (2012). Dementia: A public health priority. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Family Science DepartmentUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics, College of Family and Consumer SciencesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations