Quality and Quantity of Social Support Show Differential Associations With Stress and Depression in African Americans

Chelsie E. Benca-Bachman, Dalora D. Najera, Keith E. Whitfield, Janiece L. Taylor, Roland J. Thorpe, Rohan H.C. Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Social support (SS) is typically associated with lower emotional distress (e.g., stress and depression) in individuals. However, SS is a multifaceted construct that can vary by quality, quantity (amount), and type (i.e., it can be emotional or instrumental in nature). Objective: The current study examined the relationships between characteristics of SS, stress, and depression in aging African Americans. Participants: Analyses focused on data from 705 participants aged 22–92 years from the Carolina African American Twin Study of Aging. Measurements: Measures included the quality and quantity of emotional and instrumental support received, as well as stress and depression. Design: A series of univariate and increasingly complex multivariate regression models were conducted in MPlus (using the cluster option to control for family structure) to examine the relationships between SS and emotional distress variables. Results: Overall, better quality of emotional SS predicted fewer depression symptoms and less perceived stress, after controlling for age, gender, socioeconomic status variables, and the other subtypes of SS. However, more instances of emotional SS were associated with higher levels of perceived stress, depression symptoms, and more stressful life events within the past year. Likewise, more instrumental SS predicted more perceived stress, while holding the other variables constant. Conclusion: African Americans who experience more emotional distress report more SS, but the quality of emotional support appears to play an important role in the association between reduced levels of stress and depression. These findings suggest that interventions should include approaches to reduce emotional distress as well as enhance the quality SS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-605
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • African American
  • Depression
  • social support
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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