Perceived social support in a large community sample - Age and sex differences

W. L. Coventry, N. A. Gillespie, A. C. Heath, N. G. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background. The positive health and well-being effects of social support have been consistently demonstrated in the literature since the late 1970s. However, a better understanding of the effects of age and sex is required. Method. We examined the factor structure and reliability of Kessler's Perceived Social Support (KPSS) measure in a community-based sample that comprised younger and older adult cohorts from the Australian Twin Registry (ATR), totalling 11,389 males and females aged 18-95, of whom 887 were retested 25 months later. Results. Factor analysis consistently identified seven factors: support from spouse, twin, children, parents, relatives, friends and helping support. Internal reliability for the seven dimensions ranged from 0.87 to 0.71 and test-retest reliability ranged from 0.75 to 0.48. Perceived support was only marginally higher in females. Age dependencies were explored. Across the age range, there was a slight decline (more marked in females) in the perceived support from spouse, parent and friend, a slight increase in perceived relative and helping support for males but none for females, a substantial increase in the perceived support from children for males and females and a negligible decline in total KPSS for females against a negligible increase for males. The perceived support from twin remained constant. Females were more likely to have a confidant, although this declined with age whilst increasing with age for males. Conclusions. Total scores for perceived social support conflate heterogeneous patterns on sub-scales that differ markedly by age and sex. Our paper describes these relationships in detail in a very large Australian sample.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-636
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Volume39
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2004

Keywords

  • Age
  • Perceived social support
  • Sex and reliability
  • Twins

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