Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 959–979 | Cite as

Social Support from Family and Friends and Subjective Well-Being of Older African Americans

  • Ann W. NguyenEmail author
  • Linda M. Chatters
  • Robert Joseph Taylor
  • Dawne M. Mouzon


This study examines the impact of informal social support from family and friends on the well-being of older African Americans. Analyses are based on a nationally representative sample of older African Americans from the National Survey of American Life (n = 837). Three measures of well-being are examined: life satisfaction, happiness and self-esteem. The social support variables include frequency of contact with family and friends, subjective closeness with family and friends, and negative interactions with family. Results indicate that family contact is positively correlated with life satisfaction. Subjective closeness with family is associated with life satisfaction and happiness and both subjective closeness with friends and negative interaction with family are associated with happiness and self-esteem. There are also significant interactions between family closeness and family contact for life satisfaction, as well as friendship closeness and negative interaction with family for happiness. Overall, our study finds that family and friend relationships make unique contributions to the well-being of older African Americans. Qualitative aspects of family and friend support networks (i.e., subjective closeness, negative interactions) are more important than are structural aspects (i.e., frequency of contact). Our analysis verify that relationships with family members can both enhance and be detrimental to well-being. The findings are discussed in relation to prior research on social support and negative interaction and their unique associations with well-being among older African Americans.


Social support Social network Elderly African Americans Well-being Negative interaction Friendship 



The data collection for this study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; U01-MH57716) with supplemental support from the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Michigan. The preparation of this manuscript was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging to Robert Joseph Taylor (P30AG1528).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann W. Nguyen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Linda M. Chatters
    • 2
  • Robert Joseph Taylor
    • 3
  • Dawne M. Mouzon
    • 4
  1. 1.Roybal Institute on AgingUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.School of Public Health, School of Social WorkUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.School of Social WorkUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging ResearchRutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA

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